There are two sentences in the English language that are incredibly damaging. When someone tells us you can’t… or when we tell ourselves I can’t…. Think of the last time you told yourself, I can’t or I’m not capable. My guess is after you said you couldn’t, you were right.
When I say I can’t I begin a self-fulfilling prophecy that generally ends in a lack of action. But what if you could change your I can’t into I will?
Changing I Can’t to I Will
A great example of the power of changing I can’t to I will, can be found in remembering people’s names. When we begin to think that we can’t do something we are slowly preventing any hope of success in that area of our lives.
For years I claimed to have a bad memory and ultimately, this resulted in minimal effort into learning or remembering new things. To the point where it became an excuse to not learn new things or to apply myself to memorize things. I didn’t exercise that “muscle” and of course, it withered.
The classic example of this is when you meet someone new and you tell yourself or you hear them say, “I’m terrible at remembering names.” Sound familiar? I used to say this, but when I was reading the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” there is a chapter that talks about how important a person’s name is to them. In one part it says, “A person’s name is the sweetest sound to them in any language.” Because of this, I stopped telling myself I was bad at remembering names. The results? I’m much better at names and have learned new skills to remember names and other things too.
When it comes to self-doubt, It’s not just about memory. I can’t, will hurt our relationships, self-confidence, leadership abilities, and many other areas of our lives. The self-doubt and lies are taking away our creativity, hindering our health, our self-confidence, and even our hope for the future. So what can we do to overcome this mentality?
Catch Yourself Being Negative – Change Your Story
Start by acknowledging you are being negative. If you attempt something and fail, and begin to say things like, I can’t do this or I suck at this or I’ll never be able to do this, acknowledge you are telling yourself a story. This story can then become a running theme in your life. Start telling yourself a new story. One recognizing your capabilities and trusting them!
I took my daughter for a bike ride in a park. The park has a full playset, a splash park, and a bunch of dirt trails. It’s in a hilly area with trees shading most of the trails and roots finding their way onto the train in many areas. This made the ride a bit challenging for Annaliese (who was 4 at the time). We rode around for about 30 minutes and I heard Annaliese, more than a few times, saying she couldn’t ride in a certain area or it was too hard.
Being a stubborn dad, I didn’t let her get away with that and took her to a few different hills that were less challenging. Eventually, she found a hill that was challenging but not too scary for her and ended up going down the hill multiple times. I refused to let her get away with saying, “I can’t.” As a result, she had a great time and discovered she can do scary hills.
Annaliese was talking herself out of being able to ride down hills and on challenging trails. Instead of allowing her to quit, I was an advocate for her and helped her see she could do it. In the same way, we need to be advocates for ourselves. When we speak negatively about our abilities we can see this as a warning and motivation to change our attitude. This can do wonders. In Annaliese’s case, she discovered a new ability.
Break Down The Self-Doubt Into Something You CAN Do
It’s not always easy to push through your doubts (or have someone push you through in Annaliese’s case). So what do you do? Simplify. When you begin to feel overwhelmed you can simplify. When you begin the I can’t mantra, break the task down. You can take the overwhelming and turn it into something reasonable.
The negative language ends up being an asset because of this. When I begin to hear the negative mantra, I know I am feeling inadequate, overwhelmed, or underskilled. Now I can take a simple step of breaking down what I am trying to do into smaller steps.
I do realize this isn’t always possible, though. This is where we have a decision to make. Both options can be good. The first is to take a risk and be okay with failure. The second option is what I mentioned before, break up the challenge into smaller steps.
In my opinion, it is always better to take a risk or to break up the challenge, than it is to quit. Whether the thing I am doubting myself about is big or small, I always grow when I take the risk or simplify the challenge into smaller steps. When I quit, it inevitably leads to disappointment and can add to my self-doubt.
What challenges are you facing that you are beginning to have self-doubt and negative talk? Share your thoughts below in the comments.