neon Change sign


back management back pain backpain modic changes Aug 15, 2023

Today I'd like to propose breaking away from some wording habits which may not be serving us anymore, myself included of course.


The words we choose to move through life with inform our brain about what's to come and how to react.


This means that what you say can either make your inevitable challenges exciting and surmountable or...paralyzingly frightening and insurmountable.


One of the phrases that tells your brain it's heading in to a shit storm in which you will surely be miserable and ultimately fail is the phrase I can't.


Working with back pain clients I hear many variations of I can't:

I can't stand too long

I can't get a good nights sleep

I can't do xyz because my back hurts.


Saying I can't is the easy way out.


It's a socially acceptable way of saying no.


It also infers that you're not willing to put in the work to try and that's where we can do better.


For many of us it's such a common habit that you might not even notice when you think it or say it.

It's certainly worth paying attention to though because you could be setting yourself up for failure rather than cheering yourself up for life's uncommon challenges ahead.


Here are three times where you might be saying "I can't" but you may actually be feeling something entirely different:

  1. YOU REALLY MEAN I WON'T - How rude! Uttering the phrase "I won't xyz" is likely to be perceived as an austere inflexibility by those around you. Sometimes though, some of those things that you're saying you can't do, are really things that you just don't want to do. And it's normal for you to not want to do things! Telling someone "I won't do xy or z" may come off as harsh but...that same phrasing could be used as a solid tool for reinforcing boundary self-talk, couldn't it? I often hear my clients say things like "I can't do XYZ anymore because of my back pain." What they're really saying is "I won't do XYZ anymore because I have no idea what sets my back pain off so I don't want to XYZ and risk my back hurting again" The reality is that you probably can do XYZ but you don't have the right information, training or support to do it confidently, so you abstain 🙁 (and miss out).
  2. YOU DON'T WANT TO - Similar to I won't, I don't want to is not really a socially-acceptable response. It infers laziness or lack of team play but it's really normal to not want to do all things. It's a good idea to soften it up with something like "That sounds fun but I don't want to do that right now".  And no, you don't owe every Tom, Dick and Harry a reason! Why you don't want to do something may not be any of of their business so don't feel a need to overshare or come up with "reasons" why you choose not to commit to a thing.
  3. YOU REALLY MEAN "I'M SCARED" - Some of us lean on this one more than the other ones. In these situations you don't actually know that you're incapable of something but you're too scared to give it a try. Especially for perfectionists who don't want to do anything half-assed; rather than look or feel weak doing things that are unfamiliar and scary, you may automatically revert to I can't (and then feign surprise when you actually can). I would argue that this is counter-productive and inefficient use of your vital energies.


When you say I can't, you're priming your brain to expect the impossible

rather than

gearing your brain up for an exciting new challenge.


In the first instance your brain will perceive the impossible as not worth trying, too hard, unpleasant.

In the second scenario, your brain will be excited and unsure but revved up to try and that makes all the difference!


I can't is kind of any easy way out; claiming lack of capability is like a Monopoly Get Out of Jail Free card in that it enables us to avoid admitting what we're really feeling - to ourselves and to others.


So the next time you hear yourself saying I can't, try rephrasing that in a way that captures what's really going on for you.


Try flipping your I can't in to

Let me see how I can

and see what happens.


If you're missing out on doing the things you love because you're I can't- ing too many things in your life due to back pain, email me back so we can can get you thinking, moving and eating well again.


Love your stuff,