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4 Strategies I Use to Process People's Comments About My Health

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“But you look so well.”

The above phrase is one that, like many with long-term health conditions, I would love to be banned. When I first got ill and really didn’t have any understanding of my condition or how to handle it, this phrase would make me feel like crying or shouting. I’d feel a little part of me die inside at the phrase.


Because regardless of how I looked on the inside, I was in immense pain and struggling to cope with daily life. Getting dressed would wear me out and leave me so exhausted I’d need a rest before I considered trying to put on makeup.

Every time someone said this to me, I felt like they just didn’t get what I was going through. The agony. The sheer “mammothness” of the task to be there in that room. I wanted to scream at them, “You’ve no idea!”

But I’ve learnt that what goes on in my head directly can impact on my body’s ability to deal with my illnesses. Yes, we know stress impacts us in many ways, but I can see a direct correlation. After six years of being ill I’m proud to say I think I’ve got it sussed.

Here are my top tips for dealing with other people’s unhelpful (but probably well-meaning) comments:

1. It’s not their job to “get it.” This is hard to accept, but other people don’t have to “get” what you are going through. In their own lives, they have stuff going on and everything is comparable. I once read that Michael J. Fox said that if everyone in the room had a serious illness and they could put that illness in the middle of the room like a set of keys, everyone would still choose to take back their own illness rather than tackle someone else’s. I had this conversation with a friend that has lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) and we both agreed we would never want what the other had. Accept that everything is relative and their lives are just as tough, fun, stressed, exciting, scary and full on as yours. Someone once said to me, “I feel like I can’t tell you I’ve a headache because you are in agony every day.” That leads me on to tip number two.

2. Be Honest. If you are caring for someone, or know someone who has a life-long struggle, just be honest. You are allowed to say, “I don’t know what to say.” That means more than anything that you are genuinely thinking about that person and not giving them a pointless pleasantry to move the conversation forward. My favorite doctor is still the doctor who said, “I don’t know what to say or do Mandie, shall we Google it?” and was the doctor that led to me getting the help and support I needed. So be honest. Your honesty will be appreciated.

3. Protect yourself. Having helped 1000’s of people to achieve more and override the obstacles in their life, including the fears that raise their ugly heads, I understand the power of protecting your mind. Stress damages our mental and physical well-being and so does the impact of other people’s words. Whoever said, “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” didn’t live in the 21st century. We are bombarded with information, motivation and stories of other people’s lives. Protect yourself physically, emotionally and mentally. Be aware of what you allow in your head and if you feel that its having a negative impact try carrying out this process:

  • Be aware of the way people’s words impact on you. How does it make you feel? How does it manifest itself? What does it make you do that is negative?
  • Stop the words that impact your mind. Don’t try and change them at this stage, just stop yourself from listening. Some of my clients imagine a protective glow around their bodies that stops things from penetrating the surface so they remain protected. I’ve seen this used powerful in a work environment where a client was bullied by the rest of their department. That client now runs their own department and is in charge of many of those bullies.
  • Create a new thought. Instead of letting those words hang out in your head, what would you rather hear? For instance, instead of hearing the negative thought, “You look really well,” you could choose to create a new way of thinking that says, “I know how I feel on the insider and I accept that I look well on the outside.” Another example could be when someone says something like, “Is your medication making your face look like that?” you could choose to think, “My medication is making me well enough to have some quality of life and do what I enjoy.” Take it as a personal challenge to reframe the negative words that come into your head and create new versions that are positive and enable you to keep going.

4. Know who you are and love it. If you like the person you are it won’t matter what other people say because on the inside you will know and love who you are. If you lack confidence this enables negative words to hang out in your head.

Explore what matters to you and work out what your top three values are. Also get a piece of paper and write on both sides why you are awesome. Write about your achievements, your attributes, etc. You don’t have to go around and tell everyone this information, but on a tough day when you’re struggling it will be something to read to remind yourself, you can get through anything, fight on and lead a life that makes you happy. It’s your proof.

And lastly, I do all of these things to protect myself from negativity, however I think my favorite thought that I allow to wash through my mind was inspired by my friend who has LAM who could see how much the phrase, “But you look so well,” impacted me. She used to whisper to me, “My beauty has never been in question.” It made me smile and set loose those endorphins that are oh so good for us. I turned this saying into my own, which is, “My ability to put on my makeup does not define me or my health.” It’s my powerful message to myself that says, “Girl, you’ve got this sussed!”

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Thinkstock Image By: Grandfailure

Originally published: May 9, 2017
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