In High School, I can remember joking with my teammates about “putting our big girl panties on” when getting dressed in sliding pants in 95 degree temperatures for softball practice. Basically we knew we would be miserably hot and sticky (and dirty) but we encouraged each other to just get through it because it was temporary (and secretly we sort of loved it). So “put your big girl panties on” basically meant, “come on, we can endure this for two hours!”
I have been conducting many interviews as I work on the manuscript for this book called, “Why Me?” and here is something I have concluded. When someone is going through something that is most likely a temporary pain, like losing a job or arguing with a spouse, those folks don’t seem to mind when a friend or loved one tries to motivate them to action by saying something similar to “put your big girl panties on.”
On the flip side, when people are experiencing chronic pain due to chronic illnesses, these folks tended to not appreciate the type of motivation that implied they were weak or making poor choices. Because for them, the pain is not likely to be temporary. When I was at my weakest point, if someone would have told me to “put my big girl panties on” I probably would’ve broken down and cried. I WAS wearing my big girl panties! That was all I had to give. One step was all I could muster to take.
Now I will tell you that I had a hard time deciphering the motivation behind the things people said to me when I was wandering aimlessly at my lowest point. I was confused with my lack of diagnosis, my extreme illness, the crazy mix of medications we had tried, keeping up with doctor appointments, and feeling extreme guilt due to all of the “regular” things I was unable to do. Oh yeah, and I felt like I had the most severe case of the flu I had ever had. So it didn’t help any that I was already a mess when someone would say something like, “Just get up and go to the store and quit complaining about it!”
Stop complaining? Yes, you’re probably right. I should have stopped complaining. AND (not but) there are really nice and helpful ways to suggest that. (Please take notes if someone you love suffers from chronic pain.)
- I know your body hurts and I know you wish you could be active today. If you could accomplish one thing and feel good about it, what would it be? Are you able to do that without putting your body at risk for more illness/pain?
- Gosh, you seem to be really stuck and frustrated today. Can I pray with you for God to help you find the silver lining, moment by moment if He has to?
- I can’t even imagine how it feels to be in your skin right now, what one thing can I do for you today that would help you focus on the positive things you have going for you?
Just get up and go? Um, yeah. I would’ve done that already if I had been able to. I didn’t used to be someone who sat still for very long. Just ask my husband.
So my encouragement for today for those of you who suffer from a chronic illness, is that big girl panties are not all the same size. For you, getting through the shower could very well be your big girl panty hurdle of the day. And GOOD FOR YOU for pushing yourself as much as you know your body will allow. Stop looking at Facebook and counting how many friends are at the gym, running marathons in summer heat, or chasing their kids at the park. That isn’t going to help you. In fact, Facebook is probably the worst place for you to be hanging out right now. You aren’t going to find your self-worth there. The Bible is the absolutely BEST place and it will fill you up with hope and God’s love for you.
For those of you who think your big girl panties need to look like everyone else’s — let me tell you, they not only don’t need to, but they BETTER NOT look like everyone else’s. God didn’t design your body and mind to do the exact same things as other people’s.
And that my friends is a GOOD thing.
One size does not fit all, and thank God it doesn’t!