How many times have you heard yourself or others say “I can’t?” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard it.
“Can’t” has a connotation of defeat, failure, helplessness, giving up, and avoiding. To hear yourself say “I can't” can lead to feelings of depression and ‘worn out.’ Or maybe those feelings have come before the “I can't.”
Well, Shan't your Can't. Think about what it really means. Is there is a skill or ability that is lacking? Are you unwilling? Are you setting a boundary? Do you just not want to?
Children are good at saying “I can't” when they have not learned the skill such as reading larger words or tying shoes. It is at those times to teach, and learn.
If you are lacking a skill, is it something you can learn? Or is it something you are not physically capable of doing? “I am not able to move awkward objects by myself. Would you please help me?” Is much more empowering than saying “I can't” with an attitude of defeat.
When life gets very hectic, sometimes we say “I can't” in order to set boundaries and to take care of ourselves. The “I can't” really means “I am not willing to because” and that is OK. Knowing your limits with time commitments are crucial to self-care and happiness.
I have also heard “I can't” when someone is not willing to set boundaries or allow consequences to prevail. What it really means is “I don't want to.” Sometimes this is due to being an overprotective parent, a co-dependent spouse, or having a need to feel in control. “I just can't let him sit in jail.” “I can't let those kids have consequences.” “I can't let my sister be the conservator.”
If you don't want to, be honest with yourself as to why you feel that way. What are you avoiding? Is it because you are fearful of the way it may look to the outside world? Are you avoiding uncomfortable feelings, or conflict? Are you fearful of being alone or doing something new? Are you afraid someone else will not do it as well as you do?
Shan't the can't by saying “I do not want to because” and know that you will feel better for being honest with yourself and others.
So I will shan't my can't: I am not able to tell you how many times I have heard others say “I can't” because I have not counted. I am not willing to try to recap and count because it is physically impossible, and I don't want to try because I think it would be exhausting.
Licensed Clinical Marriage & Family Therapist