Okay, bear with me here as I know you will start reading and think “what has this got to do with fibromyalgia or chronic illness”? It does in the end I promise. I have been really enjoying watching a course on Creative Live these past few weeks with Jasmine Star. For those of you who might not know who Jasmine is, she is a very successful wedding photographer based in Orange County, California. The course is called ‘The Complete Wedding Photographer Experience’ and is essentially a wedding photography bootcamp where Jasmine has allowed us to see the ins and outs behind her business and how she shoots weddings. Yes, I admit I can’t quite let go of that wedding photographer career dream but that’s not what this post is about.

Jasmine was talking about defining success in terms of being a successful wedding photographer. Her point being that we can establish our own definition of success. She mentioned that if a photographer sets themselves the goal of booking 30 wedding per year and achieves that, then they are successful. But in the same light, if another photographer wants to book 3 weddings and they achieve that, then they are also successful. One may have booked far more than the other, made more money etc. but they both set themselves goals and they both achieved them. When it comes down to it, that means they are both successful. It’s important to remember that there is nothing to be gained by comparison and success is individual; it looks differently to each person.

For photographer 1, work may be their absolute definition of success and they are happy and content to spend umpteen weekends working. For photographer 2, work plays part of success for them but a bigger part may be time spent with family and friends. Jasmine defined her success as being able to work as a photographer but also being able to spend time in her pyjamas (amen to that!!) and time with her husband. So she outsources some of her business so that she isn’t having to spend every waking moment working. The point being that what makes one person happy isn’t the same for another and surely being happy in life is what makes us successful.

It got me thinking about how this relates to chronic illness. How many of us put ourselves down because we compare ourselves unfairly to others and are left feeling unsuccessful as a consequence; either someone else entirely or our past selves. We are pushed by society into believing that success is accomplished by achieving certain things; career, education, family… the list goes on. Some of these will be things that might be robbed of someone when chronic illness enters their life. Does that mean you can’t be successful?

Absolutely not. We define our own successes, not societal pressures. When you strip it all back what would you, in the present moment, define as success for yourself? What are your goals right now? I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, if someone said to me that I would define being able to wash my hair as a success I would have probably given them a funny look. But that was (and can still be) the definition of success to me. Getting up, getting dressed, making my own breakfast… if I can do those things then I am successful.

As my health improves and I find that I am able to do more, my goal posts will shift and success will look different to me. I will keep redefining success on a personal level. I have hopes and dreams and maybe one day success will encompass them. But for now, I am keeping my goals within my limitations and using them to define my successes.

What are your thoughts? What makes you successful?


Hello, I'm Donna. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2013 and started this blog shortly after. After my health declined significantly the following year, I decided to become my own advocate and searched for answers. It took two years but, in 2016, I finally discovered I had Lyme Disease. On February Stars, I share my personal journey back to better health; discussing what has helped me and the mistakes I've made along the way. I also cover topics on self-improvement, managing symptoms and living life to the fullest with chronic illness.


  1. fibrodazeblog Reply

    Thanks for this post. You helped me see something that is going on with me right now. A big part of the pressure I feel is internal. I have had a bit of a set back in my health which has effected some things I wanted to accomplish. i need to adjust my goals to my current limitations and stop pressuring myself. It is what it is.

    • I am glad you found this post useful. A lot of the pressure does come from ourselves. We can still achieve a lot of things but, like you say, often the goal posts need to shift and we need a longer time scale. Good luck!

    • Thank you Lauren. The saying “comparison is the thief of joy” is so true. Comparing to others can be really detrimental.

  2. Brilliant post Donna, really opens the mind and helps me to think about my campaigning/advocacy goalposts and what I’m striving for, it’s like a game of chess and each move is stategically worked out to cause me the least amount stress. 🙂
    Everything is done on ‘my-time’, I rely heavily on pacing and each step of the day is a success some days from washing hair to putting shoes on and that’s measuring success for me on a, personal, daily basis. It has taken years though! It never used to be like that for a long time as I felt like failure because due to #chronicpain & #chronicillness I fell foul to the pressures of apparently just being lazy or faking it. Success didin’t exist for a long time because I constantly felt like I had to prove myself in some way, “for crying out loud that’s yet another course or job I’ve dropped out of”, would go round and round my head making me sick. Once I figured out that what others thought didn’t matter I began focussing on me 🙂 Great positive read 🙂 Thankyou

    • Thank you. You sound as though you are in a really good place. I completely understand feeling like a failure but you are right when you say it doesn’t matter what other people think of us. Focussing on what we need is so important. I think at the end of the day so long as we are happy, then we are successful. P.S. I love your chess analogy 🙂

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