Perfect Authentic Me

How To Overcome Prejudice About Chronic Illness At Work

It’s Labour Day today in many countries. A day that signifies better working conditions for workers across the world. There’s been a lot of progress since the late 19th century, but unfortunately there are still many misconceptions and prejudices on the work floor when it comes to people living with chronic illness.

Still too often people living with chronic illness experience prejudice from their colleagues and employers. For the simple reason that their predicament is not visible (straight away) to the naked eye. Therefore it is often believed that the illness can’t be that bad and that they’re perfectly capable of working (full-time).

This adds a lot of pressure on the already challenging conditions of people living with a chronic illness.



The pressure for people living with a chronic illness


So, what happens as a result?

People with chronic illness often feel they have to justify their situation. They can feel terribly guilty for (finally) having a better day. They feel they can’t enjoy themselves in front of their colleagues out of fear their colleagues will complain that they’re not really in great pain, because otherwise they wouldn’t be able to smile.

Just because you can’t see an illness or disability with your bare eyes, that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

People who are healthy do not realise the challenges of living with chronic illness and are often ignorant about these challenges that happen mostly behind closed doors.

To those people I say this. Understand that..

  • Someone living with chronic illness won’t moan every single minute of the day- because that is tedious. You don’t want to hear that. Someone living with chronic illness usually and often suffers in silence.
  • Someone living with chronic illness is ever so happy when their symptoms do not dominate their day and are grateful for a bit of joy and laughter.
  • Someone living with chronic illness would trade their illness for the state of health you’re enjoying in an instant to experience even a ‘semi-normal’ day. Being able to go to work, picking their kids up from school without too much pain and with enough energy left at the end of the day.

Just because you can’t see an illness or disability with your bare eyes, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Arjan Bogaers, Counsellor at Heart and Soul Counselling, explains that “For a healthy person, being confronted with illness brings home the fact that life is fragile, unpredictable and finite. Now, in order to keep painful, uncomfortable and fearful emotions outside of our awareness, it is human nature to employ psychological defence mechanisms. Repression, projection, rationalization and denial are just a few examples of this.. As a result, the fear, anger and discomfort associated with encountering illness and disability can be overridden by offering over-optimistic Pollyanna comments, tactless comparisons, ignorant opinions and fundamentalist judgments.

So what can you do when you experience prejudice?


As in any challenging situation, it is how you deal with the situation at hand. Sometimes by telling someone what it’s like for you living with an illness day in day out, they’ll learn and will behave with understanding and compassion in future. Sometimes this won’t happen and people will remain hostile towards your situation.

  • Realise this isn’t about you.
  • Realise you can’t change someone’s behaviour no matter how you try or want to.
  • Realise you have a choice in how you respond.

This is where your power lies. You can choose what you focus your attention on.

Practise releasing focusing on people who choose not to understand and focusing instead on people who do.

Connect with people who support you. And connect with yourself, your true self, because this is the only validation you need.

Know that you can live a fulfilled life with meaning, purpose and depth, in a way someone who has never experienced health issues, because chronic illness came into your experience.

Are you experiencing prejudice at work? Please share your thoughts below, I’d love to hear from you!

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