I Believe Can’t is a Bad Word

Emiley - Newman, California
Entered on March 23, 2009
Age Group: Under 18
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe that “can’t” is a bad word. When I tell myself I “can’t” do something, not only am I being negative, but I am setting limitations on myself as a dancer, student, and person. Dance was the spark that lit the fire of this belief. Saying “I can’t” not only affects the present but hinders my future. I have found that a simple dosage of telling myself “I can” cures the I Can’t Syndrome.

This belief originated in my dance class. At our studio, a new teacher was recently added. Her new rule is no one is allowed to say “can’t” in class. If we, the dancers, utter the dreaded “c word”, we have to do push-ups. Needless to say, a new talent we have all learned is how to stop ourselves from finishing the phrase; as long as we do not complete the negative thought, we are good. I decided to do an experiment. In a single one hour class with a different teacher, I counted the number of times the dancers said “can’t”. Altogether, we said that word twenty-three times–twenty-three steps we did not execute properly because we believed we “couldn’t” before we even tried.

I feel I sometimes tell myself, “I can’t” to lower my expectations, if I fail, I am not disappointed. It is in our nature to avoid disappointment, so if I prepare myself for failure, there is no let down. Right? Wrong. I am just as upset with myself when I thought I could do a combination across the dance floor and fail as when I have low expectations. Why be negative if it does not help me? I lower my expectations because it is the easy way out. If I believe I cannot achieve something, I do not have to put as much effort into it. It is as if I do not want to succeed in the first place. I promise myself failure just so I do not get hurt.

Instead of telling myself “I can’t”, I practice telling myself “I can”. I have surprised myself with how positive I feel afterward. It makes sense; thinking “I can’t” before a jazz routine puts me in a negative mindset, but saying “I can” before the same routine makes it go smoother, making me feel better. An easy way to practice is quickly trying the dance move or homework assignment before thinking negatively. After all, I do not know if I will succeed or not. In some cases, I do not have to tell myself “I can” out loud as it has the same effect if I say it in my head. As a result I have discovered there are many challenging things I can do new steps, complex routines, even homework when I tell myself “I can”.

Saying “I can’t” may seem reasonable from time to time, but in the end, I am just hurting myself because nothing good comes from saying I “can’t”.