“I CAN vs I CAN’T”

The one thing that I come across time and time again is the limiting belief of “I can’t”. That very well-known tiny phrase that has a huge impact on people’s lives if they buy into that idea and truly believe it!

It seems as we go through our childhood that this habit of negative and cautious thinking can be formed through having natural anxiety due to our inexperience and naivety of our brand-new environments. The well-meaning people who surround us as a child that sometimes tell us “no, you cannot do that, it’s dangerous” or “that’s not what we do in this family” or “that’s not the kind of person you are (or who I want you to be!)” instil into our psyche reasons why we cannot or are not capable/good enough to attempt certain activities.

As a child, we are like sponges and can absorb these beliefs very readily and then make them our own. We have not had the time or developed the maturity to think for ourselves. As little people, we listen, trust and learn from the individuals around us. It makes me wonder, how many of our beliefs are actually our own?!

As women in business, especially when starting out, we can come up against brick walls of challenges and activities we have previously not encountered. Instances where our confidence and self-belief are rocked to the core. “I can’t do it” can then become a default thought process that we can lapse into and can be intertwined with fear and anxiety. Our ‘flight or fight’ system ignites and before we know it, there is a complete halt with apparently no way of moving forward. We can then retreat back into our comfort zones.

If we tell ourselves repeatedly that we “can’t” it embeds into our subconscious and forms almost concrete anchors in our neurological pathways that when faced with a similar situation it will fire up and affirm in our minds the phrase “I can’t do that”. You will give yourself many reasons such as “I haven’t got the skills”, “I will be judged”, “I will fail”, “I don’t have the funds” or “I haven’t got time” to name just a few that will justify why you should not attempt the very thing you need to accomplish.

Even though I am a Women’s Resilience Coach and have overcome many fears, trials and tribulations by having an “I can” attitude, there are still some activities that scare the living daylights out of me. Activities that I am determined to not only conquer but to enjoy. Such as scuba diving, sky diving, gliding and experiencing roller coaster/thrill rides. I told myself, somewhere way back in time that I was a person that could not cope with these activities.

I have always experienced great anxiety around speed and heights and have avoided trying them out at all costs….until now. I recently went to a popular water park in Abu Dhabi. My husband has no issues with seeking thrilling experiences. For the 7 years we have been together I have dearly wished I could join him in his pursuits including riding theme park attractions.

I have been to this waterpark many times and have ridden the smaller waterslides always saying no to the larger ones, only to feel like a failure and a disappointment. This time, I was absolutely determined to tackle this anxiety and ride with my husband and children on a family water slide that was high and fast, with drops, twists, and turns.

I climbed the many steps to the top and once there, froze with anxiety. My husband was trying to reassure me, but still, the anxiety had a very real grip on me. After 20 minutes of procrastinating and trying my best to manage the symptoms of the anxiety, it suddenly dawned on me that I could be the master of the outcome, the master of the anxiety and that I was in control even though I did not feel like I was initially.

Once I realised that – I became confident that all would be well and that I could do this. I boarded the ride with my family. When I reached the bottom it was apparent that it was nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be. Yes, there were large drops, twists, turns, water and screaming but I really enjoyed it. So much so that I went on the ride a further 3 times! I then went on to ride a 60mph roller coaster the next day!

I was left with a sense of pride and achievement, it also left me with a new-found confidence that I can go on to do and achieve more in the way of bigger, faster and higher rides.

If you are struggling with an “I can’t” attitude, here are my 3 tops tips for increasing your self-belief:

1. Surround yourself with the people who are your cheerleaders. These are the people that have never doubted your abilities and always encourage you. We, as humans, adapt to our surroundings and therefore, if you put yourself into the company of your cheerleaders often, it will help you to remember just how great you really are and if your self-belief is poor, you can absorb their belief they have in you until yours increases.

2. Do not ‘look up’ to other people or compare. The idea that can add to negative self-belief is thinking that other people are ‘better’ than you. It may be that you have been admiring a mentor or someone who you deem to be more successful than yourself and it is having a detrimental effect on your self-perception. Comparing yourself automatically puts the other person on a pedestal whilst positioning you beneath them.

3. Remember the times when you overcame, conquered and achieved. Pull out the qualities you displayed. Ask yourself questions such as:

– What did I do to move forward?
– How did I do it?
– What qualities or skills did I use?
– How can I use them now?
– What positive things would my loved ones say about me?
– What did I learn about myself?

Tish Hawken
Women’s Resilience Coach