I was recently talking to a friend who said that she and her sisters were not allowed to say the word can’t while they were growing up.
Unintentionally or otherwise, I have a tendency to impose barriers on myself. I’ll get it in my head that I can’t do something, that I’m incapable of learning a new thing or achieving a certain goal. My self-belief, inextricably linked to my self-esteem, tends to curl in on itself like a threatened hedgehog. It’s safer to just believe that you can’t, to play it safe, rather than take the risk and potentially fail. When I look at a new situation or possibility, I see all the things that could go wrong first. I see all the ways in which I might fail or look stupid. I can’t go to X on my own because I might get lost. I might miss my train. What if Y happens? I like having the security of a friend when I go exploring, and if they’re not around then I convince myself to wait until they are.
I read an interesting book on the topic of mindset last year and felt disheartened that I identified with the fixed mindset mentality more than the growth mindset. Obviously, the point is to recognise the tendency and try and become more growth-centred, but this isn’t without its challenges. If you are, by default, a fixed mindset kind of person then you have to continually try and check yourself and make mental adjustments.
This morning, I went for a run. A couple of years ago I would have said, “I can’t run.” I’ve always been an asthmatic and was never what you’d call sporty. I liked being outside, exploring the countryside around my home, but I wasn’t into actual sports. I had P.E teachers who focused on those who were capable and enthusiastic, and endured those who turned up with evident reluctance. However, in 2014 I decided that I wanted to run. I used the NHS Couch to 5K programme and went from being physically unable to run for more than a minute, to being able to tackle 7-8km runs by the following year.
Personally, I feel that running ability is about 20% physical and 80% mental. This morning, still pondering about this idea of living without can’t, I set out thinking I can. I didn’t focus on the fact that I’d not run for ages and it was probably going to hurt, I just told myself that I was a gorgeous morning and I was going to run. I’d run the same circuit before and I could do so again. I didn’t have to bargain with myself, like I often do…
Get to that tree, then you can walk for a bit.
Just make it to the 30mph sign.
Run 4km and then you can walk home.
When I got to the hill that always looks like Everest when I’m at the bottom (it’s actually not that steep), I just got behind myself and gave myself a shove. I’d already done this hill numerous times before, so I was going to do it today. I had, therefore I could.
All the way round I was thinking of the positives. Enjoying how the blue sky was smudged with wisps of white cloud, and the way that the cow parsley was exploding out of the hedgerows. As a result of my mindset, I ran faster than I’d run for a long time. I didn’t get a crippling stitch. I made it to the top of the hill in a one-er. My mind wasn’t clouded with worries and doubts, I was just running and enjoying being present.
From now on, I’m going to try living without can’t. Mum always says that stressing about something is like working with the brakes on. Similarly, if you’re always listening to the little voice that says you can’t then you’ll never find out if you can. I’m going to try and take a few more risks. Be brave and explore on my own. Take a trip to a city and go to an art gallery without a human security blanket. Get my cello out of her case and say I could, so I can rather than I could and now can’t.
I’ll let you know how I get on…