Sometimes, an “I can’t” belief begins with overwhelm– too many things to do, too little time. Other times, it begins with self-pity or feeling powerless. It may begin as resentment or regret– second guessing yourself or thinking “the grass is greener.” Parents and teens often share experiences in which they feel stuck or bogged down by beliefs in which they “can’t” be, achieve, or do something they wish for themselves.
What does the moment of “I can’t” look like for you?
Stop. Breathe. Feel. Notice what has come up for you. Give it a little space.
When “I Can’t” Becomes Self-Sabotage
Today, “I can’t” took over, and I became stuck in self-sabotage mode for a good part of the afternoon. My partner is out of town for several days, and I’m missing him. A client canceled a call that I was looking forward to. A friend postponed plans that I was excited about. Family stuff has been on my mind and heart. And so on… This combination of experiences felt heavy, and I resisted the sensations I was facing, preferring to ignore or stuff them away.
Have you been there? Where do you feel this heaviness in your body?
It wasn’t until a few hours in– after I had created new plans of escaping into a new Netflix series with lots of chocolate– that I realized the cycle I was stuck in. Furthermore, I realized that there was no chance of considering the day a “success” in my current state; whatever I did (or didn’t do) wouldn’t be enough. I wouldn’t be enough.
Needing accountability and support, I texted a friend. Through this connection, I began to realize my own power and agency to name, own, and change my beliefs. This began a shift into “I can.”
3 Ways of Getting Out of an “I Can’t” Belief
1. Notice and name your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors without judging them. When we are able to label our sensations, we can imagine solutions and create ideas for getting unstuck. Today, for example, my thoughts were limiting– “I don’t feel well, I can’t go to yoga.” My feelings were generally sad, disappointed, and frustrated. My behaviors were avoidant, repetitive, and lethargic. However, I didn’t notice and name these sensations and actions (despite knowing I was stuck) UNTIL I texted a friend.
2. Breathe into the sensations. We are not defined by our thoughts, feels, or behaviors. We experience them, but we are not limited to them. Make your sensations less personal by acknowledging, “A part of me feels ______.” This process helps us remember that feelings and perceptions will fluctuate, pass, and change in time. Acknowledging that I was sad and lonely, for example, helped me experience sensation more fully (rather than hiding it behind screens or day-dreaming about chocolate); breathing into my emotions was key to shifting my beliefs. Breathing intentionally can facilitate acceptance.
3. Decide which “right action” can help you get out of “I can’t”. If we are experiencing heavy emotions, we might need rest. However, we might, instead, need movement or activity to shift our energy. Most of us have a typical or default patterns. Right action, though, means intentional and thoughtful actions that are taken from a place of awareness. This requires listening to determine the steps we can take towards “I can.” Today, my right action was a change of scenery and being in community; I ended up going to yoga, grocery shopped (yes, I still purchased the much-anticipated chocolate), and chatted with my sister. Afterward, I still felt sad, but this sadness had a lighter quality because my belief within it had changed.
Knowing “I Can” Even When Emotions are Heavy
My dear friend, Crystal, whom I texted encouraged me to go to yoga. She also invited me to text her after class with something I learned. Here’s what I said, “I learned that a change of environment was a good way to reset my mind.” This is an “I can” belief!
Thus, a bonus tip: Open a note on your phone, title it SOS (or something that you’ll remember in a time of need). List 3-5 people you can text or call about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Sometimes, connecting with someone else be the trigger we need to walk ourselves through the 3 steps above.
Having a tough afternoon, day, or week, is normal; it’s a part of the human experience! It’s a normal part of being a parent and leading your family. It’s a normal part of being a teen and searching for your place in the world. Yet, our society has trained us to hide or ignore emotions. We are often taught to disconnect from our emotions, to disregard them, or to hide them. As a Life Coach for Teens and Parents, I believe and teach that being with our sensations in intentional, compassionate ways enables and empowers us to move towards healing and personal growth. Please reach out with your thoughts, experiences, and questions about this practice of shifting your beliefs out of “I can’t.”