Why You Need To Stop Saying “I Can’t”

I was 10 years old standing at the end of a balance beam when I said, “I can’t do this.” My coach then said something that has stuck with me until this day. She said, “We don’t say the words I can’t here because you CAN do it so say what you really mean.” What she meant was that when you say “I can’t” what you usually mean is “I’m scared” or “I don’t want to” or “this is too hard for me.” 

What followed was many years of coaches reminding us that “I can’t” is not part of our vocabulary and that it’s okay to just say what we mean. It’s okay to have feelings and fears. It’s not okay to make blanket excuses and never try.

It was a lesson in understanding meaning and realizing that “I can’t” is really just a cop-out. We all CAN do pretty much anything. It’s something I still think about daily. 

What ‘I can’t” really means 

When you say the words “I can’t” you are immediately making an excuse whether you think you are or not. We aren’t talking about the times you’ve said you can’t go to the movies on the weekend because you have to work. 

We’re talking about the times you’ve just written yourself off. You decided without even trying that something was too hard or impossible for you.

“I would love for my house to be clean and tidy like those magazines but I can’t do that.” 

“I wish I could start my own business and have more freedom but I can’t do that with a family.”

I really want to go back to school to get a better job but I’m not smart enough to do that so I can’t.”

Saying “I can’t” is hammering the nail in the coffin. It’s giving up before you’ve started. It’s not believing in yourself. 

If you ask me, that’s a whole lot of negative self-talk for someone who hasn’t even tried the thing yet. 

Think of all the times you’ve said you can’t do something. Now dig a bit deeper and ask yourself why not?

Every time a friend tells me a dream or something they are excited about and then follows it up with “I can’t do that though” I say WHY NOT?

I can’t is not the reason. I can’t doesn’t mean anything other than an excuse.

woman looking into the distance, pondering life.

Why do you make excuses?

Everyone on this planet makes excuses. It’s not necessarily a bad thing all the time… sometimes it’s nicer to make up an excuse instead of hurting someone’s feelings.

However, when it comes to yourself and your own hopes and dreams excuses have no place!

So, why do you make excuses for yourself?

The answer is simple: fear.

Excuses help you shelter your self-esteem and confidence. If you decide from the start that something is too hard or won’t work out for you, it won’t hurt as much when it doesn’t. 

Humans make excuses for all sorts of things and ultimately it’s for self preservation. No one likes to feel sad, mad, disappointed, or embarrassed. Those are not the greatest feelings and excuses can help you avoid them. 

Think of excuses as a form of operant conditioning – you have learned that failure leads to negative feelings. You also learned that making excuses for your behaviors or lack of behaviors leads to less negative feelings. 

Making excuses can become automatic. You might not even fully believe them but you are conditioned to THINK them which had a huge impact on your follow-through and how you view yourself.

5 reasons you need to stop saying “I can’t”

If you haven’t already grasped a few reasons to stop saying “I can’t” then here are some reasons laid out for you! 

1 – you aren’t saying what you mean 

You are doing a disservice to yourself and the people around you by always saying you can’t do something. 

Be honest with yourself about the reasons!! If you can’t do something because you’re scared, say that. If you don’t believe in yourself, say that. If you simply don’t want to, say that. 

2 – you’re setting yourself up for failure 

If you say you can’t do something or you’d never be able to do something you’re just setting yourself up to fail before you even begin.

Having that negative mindset is guiding you toward where you’ll go. 

3 – you’re encouraging negative self-talk 

We all have negative thoughts about ourselves from time to time, it happens. 

However, saying you can’t do something is quite negative because remember, you CAN do pretty much anything. 

By focusing on what you “can’t” do, you are focusing on the negatives. 

4 – you aren’t believing in yourself 

One of the first steps to succeeding is life is believing in yourself. Ultimately if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. 

If you cut yourself short right off the bat you are basically saying you don’t believe in your abilities.

5 – it doesn’t help you make any progress

Making excuses doesn’t make you better.

If your goal is to get a better job but you keep saying you can’t do it… I guess you’re right. Nothing will ever change! 

Related reads:

why you need to stop saying "I can't" and ditch that phrase permanently
reasons why saying "I can't" sucks and why you need to stop saying it

In summary 

Focusing on the words you use every day can seem a bit tedious but it makes a big difference in how you view yourself and the world. 

Nothing will change in your life if you keep making excuses! And sadly, you make excuses because the thing you “can’t do” scares you or is important to you in some way. 

Remember that excuses are a way of self-preservation so always ask yourself the reason you “can’t” do something. 

At the end of the day, removing the phrase “I can’t” from your vocabulary will improve your communication with yourself and others, will help you get away from the negative self-talk, and hopefully allow you to work towards trying new things!

How often do you say you can’t do something? Will you try to say it less now? 

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