Why Do We Say ‘I Can’t’?

You’ve probably met people who frequently use the words ‘I can’t’ or ‘Ooo dang I couldn’t do something like that!’. ‘I can’t’ is a really common phrase I hear and I want to talk about the impact that an ‘I can’t’ attitude can have on your life – at least in my experience.

Let’s take a minute to look into what a person might mean when they say ‘I can’t’. They could mean that they’re too afraid, or that they don’t feel in a good enough physical condition. Perhaps they don’t feel clever or skilled enough to attempt it, or they could simply be impressed by someone else’s achievement and are attempting to make them feel good about it by belittling their own capabilities.

Some of you might argue that there are people in the world who physically can’t do certain things. I agree. I’m not saying that anyone can do everything if only they were to try. The point I’m making is that understanding the reasoning behind the ‘I can’t’ is empowering. Take a minute to consider your real feelings on the matter; are you really unable? Do you really not want to do it? Or are you simply afraid, insecure, or worried about what someone else might think? Think of someone who has worked in the same job for many years who is telling you they couldn’t ever be a manager, even though their knowledge and experience in the job more than qualifies them for the position. They do want to earn more money, they do want to experience new things, they are curious about their potential, but they’re very afraid of being in charge of other people in case they get it wrong. In other words, they are afraid of making a mistake. This fear drives them to believe that they can’t do the job, and thus, they never apply for the position.

It’s my belief that most people who say ‘No way, I couldn’t do that’, don’t necessarily believe what they say. It’s just a figure of speech that can mean many different things. However, I do believe that something very important happens underneath the surface when we say these words. Regardless of the reasons that we provide to ourselves and others for saying ‘I can’t’, (jokingly or not) we slowly begin to ingrain the idea in our minds that, actually we can’t live up to that standard and that we cannot achieve what others have managed to before us. We’re actually putting ourselves down, and that creates a kind of negative energy around the subject that will inevitably impact us somewhere down the line. There’s a very distinct difference between a lack of desire to do something and a fear of doing it. I don’t think the fear would be there in the first place if there wasn’t at least some form of innate curiosity. That being said, if we consistently tell ourselves and those around us that we ‘couldn’t possibly attempt a thing like that’, the words become a sly justification that allows us to safely avoid the things that we are afraid of doing.

It’s easy to convince yourself that you feel something even if it isn’t true. This is far easier than confronting the truth because it would mean admitting that you’re afraid or insecure. We’ve all lied to ourselves and I think we all know that it never seems to end well. I think the most important thing is to recognise this before the situation becomes harder to resolve – because lies build up, layer upon layer and become increasingly difficult to pull apart as time goes on. Before you know it, the lies have become truths to you, and so you miss out on many opportunities just because ‘I can’t do that’.

Why does all of this matter? Well, we want to be happy and fulfilled in life, right? Sounds like a good objective to me. However, if we label ourselves as incapable, we might experience feelings of inadequacy or jealousy when faced with other peoples accomplishments which can impact relationships and your overall sense of wellbeing.

So – I don’t think we should ever say ‘I can’t’ and instead we should say ‘I don’t want’ and really mean it. If we say the words ‘I don’t want to’ but don’t genuinely mean it, then maybe we’ve stumbled upon something worth pursuing. Only one way to find out!

What do you think?

 

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