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Your Guide to Moving Beyond “I Can’t”

May 18, 2017

Kathy Friedman


It’s so easy to talk ourselves out of making decisions and taking risks to help ourselves grow.

“I can’t do the advanced yoga class; I’ll never be able to do a headstand.”

“They don’t like me because they waited 47 minutes to text back, so I guess I should just give up now.”

“Even though my friends are able to do it, I’m just not as smart as they are.”

“I don’t have enough time, so I won’t go to the gym this week or year.”

We create these stories in our heads about why we’re not good enough, why we; can’t, won’t, shouldn’t or just aren’t meant to be doing certain things because of who we believe we are (or are not).

From a young age, my parents told me, “Kathy, you’re smart, you’re a caring person, you’re strong and can accomplish anything you put your mind too”.  At 4 years old (1957), my parents accomplished their dream and moved to Northfield, Vermont, a small town in central Vermont that desperately needed a dentist. (My father was a graduate of U of Penn Dental School) My two older brothers were socially accepted but when I went to first grade, I was immediately ostracized by the “mean girls” for being Jewish, smart, having different clothes and the list goes on. I was a victim of what they call today, “Anti-Semitic Bullying”. My mother would try and put me back together every day when I would come home crying, telling me “They are jealous or they just don’t understand”, but I just wanted to be accepted. So even though my family life was wonderful and loving, I developed a low self-esteem, poor body image (I always felt fat) and doubted myself constantly due the constant bullying. I ultimately went away to boarding school in Massachusetts for high school, but the damage was done. I also was a tom boy, having two brothers, and my father taught me everything he taught the boys. My mother was an amazing cook and “Mom”, so I also learned to love cooking, how to keep a beautiful home, and “just take care of things” from her.  So even though I was an excellent snow and water skier, student, cook, and all around good kid, I hated myself inside.

Nothing ever actually stopped me doing well in school or in sports….. Except for that voice in my head that said I wasn’t thin enough, smart enough and that I wouldn’t fit in. It was all completely in my head and yet it totally altered the actions I was willing to take because of what I had repeatedly told myself. The negative thoughts created terrible anxiety and at age 18, I developed anorexia and a Valium addiction that lasted 15 years and kept me from achieving my goal of becoming a physician. I achieved honors in Dental Hygiene School, and graduated with a bachelor in Human Nutrition and Food from U of Vermont. Thankfully, in 1986, after my father retired and we all relocated to Palm Beach County, I was able to receive the help I needed for my addiction to Valium and my eating disorder. Two years into my recovery I was accepted into Nova University’s Graduate degree program in Counseling Psychology, and have been in private practice as a therapist for the past 22 years.

What do you tell yourself that resembles my inner dialogue? Are you supposed to be tough and manly, which means a yoga class is not in the cards for you? Are you not smart enough to take a science course or good enough at math to sort out your personal finances?

These stories that we repeat to ourselves on a daily basis become our realities because we don’t do the things we want to be doing as a result.

I gave up pretending that I couldn’t achieve a dream, I learned to love and accept myself for who I was, and was able to raise a beautiful daughter, who has become a talented special educator and is expecting her first child, all because I asked for help and took the tools given to me and placed them into action. 


My daughter Hannah, always hated sports and has scoliosis. After marrying and establishing some really good friends, she was challenged to join the pole studio where she lives. Through two years of intensive training with an amazing pole trainer, Hannah found strength she never knew she possessed, and a fabulous remedy for her constant back pain from the scoliosis. She and another friend who share a deep love for Disney ran the 5K "Princess Run" in 2016, and placed in the top 20! She just finished her 2nd 5K at Disney, running at 20 weeks pregnant!

What limiting beliefs are you holding onto about yourself that are hindering your ability to move forward? 

3 Questions to Move Past the Belief and into Action:

1.     Is there (real) evidence to support what I’m thinking? 

I mean true evidence from experience or an external source, validating that you actually can’t do something. Did mean girls tell you that you were stupid or ugly? This doesn’t count.  Be truthful with yourself. Is this coming from a fear of failure or rejection? Could you try this out once (or twice) and see how it goes? What do you really have to lose from trying it out?

2.     What is the positive version of this belief?

If you’ve decided you will just never be a ballerina, how might you flip that assumption on its head and challenge it? Instead of taking that negative fear and allowing it to control your actions, identify an opportunity to actually try the activity in real life, instead of living in your head. You absolutely might fall on your face, but you just as likely might love it and be great at it. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll have a pretty great story to share as a result.

3.     What next step would I take if I was completely confident about my abilities?

So, you know that voice in your head that has been sabotaging you this entire time, I invite you to put it aside and fill in this phrase: 

If I was completely confident in my ability to ______________ I would ___________.

Take the next small step and commit to the class, date, trip or interview.  

Bonus: How do I stay accountable to this new way of thinking and doing?

Tell a supportive friend, mentor, partner or parent about this new thing you’re going to try. Set the date you’re going, and let them know how it goes. We all have similar fears of failure and it’s important to remember you’re not alone! Telling someone else increases your likelihood of following through with it. Better yet, invite them to try that pole dancing class with you; they might’ve wanted to go themselves!


- Kathy

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