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Accepting Limitations: The Definition of Success

Accepting newfound limitations is one of the hardest parts of dealing with consistent psychological abnormalities. For those of us with a past of high functional proficiency, the transition is particularly difficult, and may require a modification in the way we view and define the concept of “success.”

For a long period in my life I had a deep desire to be the best at everything I attempted. I was a “gifted” child, so achieving this goal was not far from the expectations others held for me. I excelled in every sport I tried, consistently had grades among the highest in school, and was very popular among all types of peers (I was one of the few that could drift from clique to clique). Like most teenagers, I did not know how lucky I was at the time.

By the time I graduated from high school, I had experienced very few “failures.” This would continue as I started university, but eventually my mental problems started to come to the surface. Before I knew it, I was falling behind in classes, I could no longer concentrate enough to competently play sports, and my social life was beginning to fall apart. Everything I had considered “successful” about my life was suddenly being taken away from me, and it would be years before I realized that I hadn’t suddenly become incompetent, but was rather experiencing the crippling effects of an emerging mental health issue.

Even after I had finally linked my functional regression to the symptoms I was now experiencing, I was not willing to accept these new limitations as anything more than a temporary nuisance. Deep in my mind I was sure that I could live the same life as before if I just learned to ignore the things that were changing my behavior. So I tried to forget the fact that my mind was altered, and obliviously trudged ahead in the hollow attempt to rejuvenate my self-confidence.

The task of “ignoring” psychological systems is a venture doomed for failure. When we try to circumvent the harsh truth that we face, we cannot begin to work within the boundaries of our affliction. We must accept that mental health issues have a serious and lasting impact upon our various capabilities. When we are aware of the barriers instituted by whatever mental abnormality we face, we can then begin to look for new “success” within the avenues of exploration that are still safely available to us.

My example is this; I had spent over five years desperately attempting to find a full-time job that wouldn’t trigger a psychological episode. Consistent failure in this attempt was driving my confidence deeper and deeper into the ground. I would break down after a single day of training every single time I started working for a new employer. Following many attempts, I gave in to these repeated feelings of failure and ceased my search.

By finally ending the cycle of insanity (doing the same thing over and over, finding consistent results, and still expecting different results each time), I was able to step back and examine my own idea of “success.” Success is not achieving everything you set out to do, and it is certainly not being the best are everything either. True success, in my opinion, is to lead a happy life without hurting anyone. This is a goal that is still within my grasp, one that I find meaning within, and it is an outcome that I am happy to seek. Plus, by finally accepting my inability to work full-time, I was able to find peace (and the beginning to a decent living) through part-time services. Had I not been able to accept my limitations, this option would have never occurred to me, and I would still be suffering needlessly while failing to grasp the true sense of success and contentment that is found within ones unique capabilities.


Accepting Limitations: The Definition of Success

This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on September 12, 2011.

Steven Pace

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APA Reference
Pace, S. (2019). Accepting Limitations: The Definition of Success. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 May 2019
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