Have you ever felt like your inside doesn’t match your outside?  Let me rephrase that, have you ever felt like an energizer bunny mentally but a complete train wreck physically?  I know I have. This situation occurs any time you have the will, passion, and desire to do something but you are unable to do it physically.

Types of Physical Limitations:

Limitations to Overcome:

In some cases, physical limitations are merely something to push through.  For example, I took a ballet class for the first time in a really long time the other day and the main thing I learned from the class was just how completely out of shape I am. The class was so basic and yet I was riding the struggle bus, dealing with leg cramps, listening to the rhythm of my joints cracking, and trying to suck my stomach and butt in just enough to at least make me look like a dancer since I clearly wasn’t dancing like one.

My body is clearly not in the physical shape that it once was and it’s never been in the physical shape it would need to be in to dance professionally but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be. Physical limitations to overcome are merely limits that say “you’re not there yet.” These are the limitations that you somewhat have control over because overcoming them is all a matter of how much you are able to push yourself to grow.

Temporary Limitations:

There are some situations where physical limitations are temporary. Coming down with laryngitis before your big concert or tearing a ligament (as I did this past year) that pulls you out of a show are temporary physical limitations. Depending on what it is, they make take you out of the running temporarily or you may be able to push through. The bottom line is, they usually stop you dead in your tracks, throw a monkey wrench in your current endeavors, and aren’t necessarily in your control.  Temporary limitations are usually unplanned, making them extremely frustrating to deal with.

Chronic Limitations:

These are the toughest to deal with. These are the health issues that don’t seem to go away. They are the recurring or permanent conditions that have drastically affected your life and seem to stop you every time you attempt to start over or do anything that brings you joy. As someone who has had to start over numerous times only to deal with the physical setbacks of an autoimmune disease, I’m no stranger to this one either. Chronic limitations are the ones that make you constantly have to reassess whether or not you can continue being the artist you want to be.

In a field where being healthy is crucial, how do you handle physical limitations that stop you dead in your tracks?

Perhaps the fact that I’ve fallen into all three of these categories is the reason I’m passionate about this topic. I know this is a well needed discussion because it was a topic that was requested by my readers and it’s one that plagues many artists.

Physical limitations including disabilities, illness, pain, and fatigue sadly do often lead to having to sacrifice many of the things you’d like to do and leave you with an abundance of questions. It is important to acknowledge your physical limitations because you’ll never improve if you’re not honest with yourself and others about what you can and can’t do.  However, the important thing to remember is that even though you may have a physical limitation that puts your artistic endeavors on hold, you will never stop being an artist.

Advice from the pros:

There are many lessons that can be learned in the midst of health trials. Trust me I could probably write a book on the lessons I learned in the midst of my limitations. However, let’s get some inspiration from some professionals who had to handle some pretty serious physical limitations.

Your limitation can motivate you:

“You want to motivate somebody; take away the thing they spent their entire life fighting to get.”

-Race Car Driver James Hinchcliffe

James Hinchcliffe wanted nothing more than to race his whole life. He was a professional Race Car Driver competing in major races including the Indy 500 and Grand Prix. However, he survived what should have been a fatal car cash. The race car malfunctioned and part of the suspension went through his body.  He couldn’t even walk let alone race and was lucky to be alive. A year after his traumatic car accident, he was back to walking and racing and a not even a year and a half later he was dancing on Dancing with the Stars. You can view his interview and argentine tango here.

He said that his first question when he woke from surgery was “when can I race again?” Losing the very thing that he spent his life getting gave him the motivation to start over and continue to work toward his goals. In another interview he said that the accident was one of the best things that happened to him.

Focus on What You Do Have:

“‘Amputee’ implies that I’ve lost something. I say I have two prosthetic legs.  That implies that I’ve gained something.”

-Paralympic Snowboarder Amy Purdy

Amy Purdy contracted a form of meningitis at the age of 19 and had to have a double leg amputation. She was also lucky to survive. Just seven months after receiving prosthetic legs, Amy Purdy learned to snowboard. She went on to win the bronze medal in the 2014 Paralympic Games.

She also was on Dancing with the Stars and was partnered with pro dancer Derek Hough. In an interview, Derek Hough mentioned that she was a double amputee. He said that later she politely corrected him with the quote above. The very reason that Amy Purdy was able to defy the odds and continue to be the athlete and artist that she was was because of her outlook.  A healthy perspective can get you through a lot more than you think in life.  Amy Purdy knew her limitations but didn’t let that discourage her, she worked hard and used what she did still have to be the success that she is.

Use Your Physical Setbacks to your advantage:

“There is something to be said about solitary confinement, or as I say, solitary refinement.”

-John Mayer

Singer/songwriter John Mayer was a graduate of Berklee College of Music.  After his success he went back and did a clinic at his alma mater to inspire future musicians. He offered a lot of inspiring advice that you can check out here. One inspiring story in particular was when he shared about a time when his life was in limbo and he was suffering from kidney stones.  He said in that time he had nothing to do but medicate, go for testing, sit, and write music. It was then that he wrote his hit song “Stop This Train.”  He could have put everything on hold but he used the unexpected downtime to focus on one thing-his music.  Sometimes it takes physical limitations to put us where we need to be to create something great. Use that downtime to continue to create art!

I realize that every situation is different and each of these bits of advice may be more appropriate to some situations than others. The bottom line is as long as your brain is in tact and you mentally can see yourself continuing to create, then you remain an artist. You are still capable of being creative. If you don’t believe me check out the very first blog post I wrote. It’s about this very thing and you will see that the first time I realized writing could make a difference was when I was incapacitated in a hospital bed with nothing but a laptop and my brain that wouldn’t shut off.

Your physical limitations may cause setbacks but they can also cause new beginnings, new direction, and new artistic endeavors that may in fact be your best work.

Are you dealing with physical limitations? If so, what category do they fall in and which piece of inspiration might be worth listening to?

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