The words you use have an impact on your well-being. Negative self-talk, the way you practice your inner dialogue, and how you express yourself to others play a role in your success and overall wellbeing. In this blog, I am going to share with you specifically why it is important to stop telling yourself “I can’t." Then, I will discuss five of the most commonly used “I can’t” phrases and the truth behind them.
Using the words “I can’t” is a way to operate with a defensive mindset. When you tell yourself you can’t, your mind automatically starts looking for evidence to justify why you can’t while overlooking all the reasons why you actually can. For instance, if I say you can’t think about the beach right now, what are you thinking about?
Using the words “I can’t” keeps you stuck mentally where you are. The more you focus on why you can’t, the more you start to believe that you really can’t. Now that you have found supporting evidence as to why you can’t, you begin to make it your reality. Can you see how “I can’t” is self-defeating? It limits your opportunities for growth by clouding your vision. It keeps you safe, in your comfort zone, far away from danger, desires, and growth. It is like saying you are lost before you even start. Sound familiar?
Now that you know why it is important to remove “I can’t” from your vocabulary, I am going to share with you the most common “I can’t” statements I have heard in hopes to increase insight into the impact of these statements and what could be happening underneath driving them to surface. Reflect on whether you can relate to the following:
1. “I can’t” find the time
This one is my favorite. First of all, let’s talk truth—time is definitely not something you find. Time is a constant, it does not change for anyone. Everyone gets the same amount of time a day, no matter where they are in the world, who they are, or what you do. Time does not run away and it does not hide from you. It does not go anywhere voluntarily, it is always there and it keeps on moving.
Indeed, you cannot control how many hours are in a day but you can control what you do with those 24 hours every day. You may feel like you don’t have a choice in how you spend your time because of all the different responsibilities you have to fulfill. At the same time, aren’t you choosing to spend that time fulfilling those responsibilities?
Time does not decide how you spend it, it's always by your side moving with your choices. Time may not agree with you. It does not care what you choose to do with it. It does not judge you based on the choices you make. It is not something you have or something you work for, it is given to you. It does not punish you for wasting it. No matter what happens, it keeps moving with you.
Time is always conscious, it doesn’t work against you, it is constantly working for you. Even when you are sleeping, it keeps going, so when you wake up, it tells you how long you slept. So, when you say “I can’t” find the time, what do you really mean?
2. I can’t do it
If you are going into it already thinking you can’t do it, I will tell you that you are right. If you tell me that you can, I will say you are right. Here is the thing, when you say you can’t do it, you are actively doubting your ability to complete the task you want to accomplish. There is a big difference between doubting your ability and fear of uncertainty.
Fear is about the outside world, it tells you you are about to face something new. It guides you toward what you want to overcome. Fear is like an alarm that alerts you when you are about to face an unfamiliar situation or a challenge.
Fear of uncertainty is about the future, it tells you that you want to be successful. Self-doubt is about your inside world. It tells you every reason why you can’t do something. It limits your perception of how far you can go. It downplays your progress and ability to succeed. Telling yourself you can't do it incapacitates your thinking, your growth mindset then slows down, sometimes freezes, and shifts your perception. You find yourself thinking about how to not fail versus how to accomplish your goal.
3. I can’t accept that
When you can’t accept something that already happened, you will remain stuck where you are because you can’t change the past. For instance, let’s say someone treated you badly and you do not like how they treated you. The truth is, the bad treatment already happened and that cannot be changed. Unfortunately, it happened, but to move past it, you have to accept the fact that it did happen. I hate to break it to you but you have to accept what you cannot change, but this does not mean that you have to accept the way you were treated as part of the future.
Ask yourself what is it that you cannot accept as part of your future? Is it the person or part of their character that clashes with yours? Is it the act that was done? Is it that you cannot accept it as part of your past? By telling yourself you cannot accept it, it causes you to continue to carry it with you. By accepting that it happened, you can free yourself from carrying it with you to the future.
4. I can’t imagine
Imagination is a very powerful tool that we possess from our childhood. Do you remember how you felt after watching an action movie or a superhero movie as a child? Right after the movie was over, you find yourself suddenly imagining that you are a superman and start believing that you will save the world. Yes, that’s imagination; you see how powerful it can be.
Imagination plays a role in fueling our beliefs about the future. The thing is, saying you can’t imagine something good is a paradox because you are already imagining that you can’t imagine the good. So in other words, you are imagining the bad, right?
Your ability to imagine is something you are born with. Your imagination consists of what you imagine, the good and/or the bad. Every time you tell yourself you cannot imagine something good, you are filling your imagination with all the bad. Think about how different it would be if you imagine the best of the best.
5. I can’t fix it
“I can’t fix the damage that has been done to the relationship over the years.” when I hear this statement, the first thing that comes to mind is, if you are not fixing this damage what would you be doing instead? Yes, do that, that’s how you fix it!
Let’s look at this statement in depth. When you fix something broken, you are restoring it to its state of functioning before it was broken. Isn't that the state of functioning that led it to break in the first place? Wouldn’t that mean that it is just a matter of time until it breaks again?
Even though it may appear fixed, the impact from the damage done is still carried with you. Let me explain this further—when you break a glass, you have broken pieces and you will need some type of cohesion to glue the pieces back together into a cup. After the pieces are glued back together, the function of the cup is restored, but the pieces are still broken and the damage is still evident. The glass will never look the same, now you can see the cracks and you will always be able to see the broken pieces glued together. Gluing broken pieces together doesn’t unbreak them, the damage is still there.
You may be wondering, should I stop trying to fix what's broken and end the relationship? When you stop focusing on fixing what is broken, you have more room to focus on building the relationship. This does not mean you have to end the relationship; it is actually the total opposite.
Instead of gluing broken pieces together into the same shape, they were in before, you can use these broken pieces to build something even more beautiful than what you had before. Turn the damage into strength and build a stronger and lasting relationship. Use your imagination and creativity to create a new profound relationship with your partner.
Behind every “I can’t” statement, there is a desire. We have the option to connect with our doubt or excuses why we can’t. On the other hand, we also have the option to connect with our desire, the reasons why we can and want to. Keep in mind, the more we focus on one option, the less we are focused on the other option. That includes the world of possibilities out there that we have yet to see. So, which option would you choose for yourself?
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About Sam Nabil
Sam offers therapy in Boston and Boston Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety. Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university, Yahoo News, USA Today, Marriage.com
Naya Clinics offers Marriage Counselors near me, individual therapy near me, and life coaching near me in various locations across the USA and the world. Naya Clinics also offers Online marriage counseling, online therapy, and online life coaching.
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