In my job as a support worker, I said these words to a client and was quite surprised when, a few weeks later, she told me that her outlook had changed; she was focusing more on the positives and things she was grateful for, the aspects of her life she had some control over, and on the things she could do.
It’s easy to start focusing on the things we can’t do, be that because of self-imposed restrictions from anxiety and depression, or limitations because of our bodies and our health. The ‘I can’t’ way of mind can also be as a result of societal or monetary forces too. I can’t go running, I can’t meet new people, I can’t do the type of job I want to do, I can’t to this, that and the other. Before you know it, you’ve given away all of your control.
I tended to focus on my stomach issues, thinking to myself that I can’t do certain things without planning, without a lot of hassle, without a lot of grief. Or my energy (or lack of it!) and how it stops me from going to places I want to go or staying out for prolonged periods of time. I neglect the things I can do, when I can do them. I can think, when my brain engages. I can move, when my body allows. I can be thoughtful, read, write, dance (in small quantities), sing (badly), be creative, be ridiculously sarcastic and politically incorrect. When focussing just on the things I can’t do and on the ways my body doesn’t work, I’m only looking at the options I don’t have. Or, perhaps, the options I don’t think I have: I can’t fall in love and move in with a partner, I can’t take on a demanding job, I can’t go on holiday, I can’t study and travel. I lose sight of who I am underneath and beyond the physical problems I have.
By focusing on what you can’t do, you are reducing yourself to parts – parts that don’t work the way they should or the way you want them to. You’ve heard the saying by Aristotle : ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. Well, so are you. You are more than the bits of your body, the bits of your brain. You are more than just the things you can’t do.
What about the parts of your body that do work, that help you to do even the smallest of things? What about the parts of your brain that let you think, talk, empathise? What about your personality, your sense of style, sense of humour, your interests, your intelligence?
Take back some of your control. Look at what you can do, not what you can’t. You may just find that your options open up, that there are more things you are capable of that you give yourself credit for…