I just can’t

by | Dec 14, 2023 | Coaching, Mental Health | 1 comment

“I just can’t…”


What if we said, “Okay” when someone said, “I can’t.”   What if we stopped trying to fix people… What if we stopped trying to “FIX” ourselves?

What if instead of trying to push them and us to do more, be more, give more, we just acknowledged the limitations.  What if we understood that the limitations were the limitations that people had set for themselves, and we respected that.

What if “I can’t” was allowed to exist and instead of “encouragement” and positive quotes we provided them silence… instead of contemplation, we provided them with space to exist just as they are… instead of motivational pep talks we provided them with trust.  Trust that while this is a moment in time where they are feeling like they can’t… or maybe that they just can’t find it in them for whatever reason. I’m not talking about blind abandonment – I’m talking about companionship instead of toxic positivity.

I just can’t…

Real support knows when enough is enough

The truth is, if you have the right support team, they’ll know when you’ve had enough… when you can’t and when you can.  But they’ll also be able to teach you to know how to trust yourself.  As members of someone’s support team, whether it’s as a coach, business strategist, psychologist, doctor, spouse, parent, or whatever – you know that when they say, “I can’t,” chances are they can. We know it, they know it, and so does the universe. However, what is our responsibility as their support?

I’m reminded of Henry Ford’s saying “Whether you think you can… or you think you can’t, you’re right.” And the truth is in his words… but I think the problem I personally am beginning to have with his statement in the coaching industry is that we are using this to “fix” other people.  Our conversations with other people around “manifestation” and “will power” and “mindset” have come to a point where people are certain that the problems, they are having are with them.

In part, we all must take accountability and responsibility for the changes we can make in our life, HOWEVER… In the moments when things are hard, when we don’t want to keep going… when we’d rather curl up in a cave and scream and cry and flip the table and throw in the towel… In THOSE moments, we do have a choice. And the problem I’m having with our self-development industry right now is the moral attitude that we have developed around which of those choices is the “correct” choice.

Make the choice that’s right for you

So, in those moments – those moments where we are at a fork in the road, and we have a choice to make…

  • We can choose to keep going… to push through the pain, the overwhelm, the tears, and so on… even though we feel like we can’t.
  • We can choose to rest… to throw in the towel for the rest of the day, the week, the month or even the year *if you’ve now queued the friend’s song, then hit the follow button because you’re my kind of person.*
  • We can choose to quit… to change directions, to decide that this isn’t for me. 

Currently, there is a toxic environment out there that makes it seem as if one of these decisions is better than the other.  It makes it seem that if you aren’t always pushing – at least in some respect – always doing something EVERY SINGLE DAY, you are giving up.  Like if you pick a path you must stick to it, and then there’s shame and judgement in giving up or shifting gears. I heard a quote recently that has stuck with me and is probably the reason I haven’t given up on my own business yet (for better or for worse… I guess we’ll see how it works out…) “100% of small businesses give up before their successful.”

This quote has been inspiring and motivating. No way am I quitting.  Even when I want to… a month ago I would have put everything on the line for this quote. And I was, I was doing that. My health, my mental health, my financial health… No way is my business going to fail – because I am not going to give up before I succeed.

So, let’s talk about the choices – specifically, The Last one.

This mindset of “the only way you fail is if you give up.” Or “When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps,” These mindsets aren’t good or bad… but they aren’t for every person in every moment.   Both quotes are worthy of contemplation if someone is feeling discouraged but still wants to achieve those goals… but most of us out here are chasing goals that we don’t even fucking want any more.  We’ve heard these quotes over and over again and we’re so dead set against shifting gears away from things we thought we wanted because of the way we’ll look to those who were supporting us.

Do any of these ring a bell for you:

“Are you changing jobs again?”  

“Will you just pick a major already?”  

“We want you to grow and develop into the amazing person you are, but you have to have goals, pick a career path and stick to it, because we don’t know how to support you if you change your mind so often.

“You have to want to do something meaningful with your life.”

“Your career needs to make you good money!”

“Why aren’t you charging more for your services??”

“Shouldn’t you get a REAL job?”

Frankly I’m really tired of all of this.  I’m tried of everyone else trying to fix each other… and I’m tired of all of these things being on replay in my client’s heads and my own…  It must stop.

Now Let’s Address the Second choice you could make.

The idea that “resting” is the opposite of WINNING… That also must stop.  The people that get paid the most money in the world take care of themselves first and foremost with rest, good nutrition, good care, and self-confidence.  Say what you will about the fact that they make millions -or choose not to play when they don’t want to – or that this one baseball player just signed a contract where he’ll make $2.22 a second… their entire JOBS are to take care of themselves – play games… quite literally… and they get paid MILLIONS to do it.  When they say, “I can’t” People frickin listen.

What a healthy I can’t response looks like

People listen to “I Can’t” for pro-Athletes because the fact is that the “I can’t” isn’t always about giving up… The “Can’t” may look like any combination of the following.

1)      Fighting a different kind of battle or running a different kind of race (On any front for any length of time – bar brawl to cat fight – NASCAR to marble races… whatever you get the point and just stick with me here)

2) And speaking of battles “I Can’t win” may also look like: Regrouping and strategizing

3)      Resting and recharging or even healing

4)      Getting your shit together because 2 miles back you lost your sword and shield and somehow the map too.

5)      Rallying the troops, because doing it alone isn’t going to actually work.

6)      Weapons Manufacturing

7)      Armor Manufacturing

8)      Food or Water Restocking

9)      Brainstorming creative Ideas for winning without weapons.

10)   Have you ever heard of the BARD?  Hello… What I do matters!

11)   Getting the kingdom or just your house in order because if the people revolt while you’re away at battle there’s not much to fight for.

12)   Or just saying NOT Going to fight this time.

Let me get real with you for a second. 

The truth of the matter is that if someone says that they can’t – they don’t owe you a reason or an excuse… they don’t owe you anything.  When you care about them you may want to ensure that they’re okay, but they don’t owe you one thing… 

Now for the first choice you can make… the “good” one:

When you feel like you can’t – you also don’t owe anyone anything… Maybe you can… maybe you can’t… maybe you won’t maybe you will.   Who knows.  Personally, I like to entertain the idea of “What if I could?”   I often find that to be the telling difference for me on whether I can or I can’t.   If I can imagine that I could and it would give me a desired result and I still can’t (mentally, emotionally, physically) – then I can’t… for whatever reason, and that’s okay.  It may not mean I’ll never be able to, but I can’t at that moment. 

If I imagine the idea of “what if I could?” and the answer gives me a laundry list of to-dos that seem uncomfortable but not impossible. then the answer is, “I can” and I simply don’t want to (Which is also okay.) and then I need to make the uncomfortable decision whether I want to stay in the comfort zone of not wanting to or get uncomfortable and do it anyway.  Which is then a CHOICE.

Most of the time, even in the situation when I can’t… When my migraines are days on end… finances aren’t great, time is scheduled to the max… the universe will still provide me a path to show me how at some point in the future… Some path will open up, some support will find its way to me, or somehow that thing I felt that I needed to do wasn’t really important anyway.

You’re never giving up… even when you’re told you are.

So regardless of whether or not you think you’re giving up – you’re probably actually keeping on.  Listen, if you’re getting out of bed in the morning and you’re surviving the day… you have chosen to keep going and I’m proud of you… now stop beating yourself up – give yourself a break and cut yourself some slack.  Nothing about this needs to be perfect… you can keep going on your marathon, on your blog post, on your diet, on your financial goals… or you can keep going on life… whatever it is.. the universe is working WITH you… and you are working forever in your favor…

The coaching industry’s response to “I can’t”

For 6 years now I’ve worked in an industry of motivational speakers, coaches, and transformational gurus.  I love what each of us do and each of us have a place in our own right. Maybe I’m wrong or it’s my own brain (which if you’ve followed me for a while, you know how our brains work) but I’m starting to see a trend.

Many people in the coaching or “helping” spaces need to take a break – we need a BIG STEP BACK.  Even those of us who are saying things like “You can do it! I believe in you… If you have limiting beliefs, you can get rid of them…” We’re tired, and many of us don’t even realize it.  Some of us, anyway, are wanting to retreat away from all of the “yes you can” bull shit… and go hide in a cave – but we’re pushing through with our toxic positivity bullshit. We know we can… we’ve done it… we’re just tired. We want a break; we want to rest… we want to not… but we keep doing.  When we say, “I can’t.”  We know that we mean “I don’t want to.” Or “I won’t.” But we don’t need to hear that… we just want to be respected, but we are putting everyone else before US.  And so the cycle continues, we burn out, and we perpetuate the cycle for our clients and our colleagues and eventually… everyone is burned out. 

Some days it’s okay to “Can’t” It’s okay to listen to your body when it says, “I can’t.” and other days it’s okay to push through that and listen to your heart or your mind when it says “YES YOU CAN” But most days – if there’s something saying “I can’t” maybe we need to shut the fuck up for a change and say “Okay.

For the future…

The next time you hear someone say “I can’t.” I challenge you to pause, provide space – maybe reply with, “Okay, I’m here for you.”

Especially if that someone – Is you.

To learn from experts about holding space, check this:

I HIGHLY recommend the “Seeking Wisdom through Dialogue” calls from my good friend Michelle Cheyne of Instinctive Living. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/seeking-wisdom-through-dialogue-tickets-751793353157?aff=oddtdtcreator

You can also join us on the hub that helps people shift perspectives and lean into compassionate leadership. www.perspectiveshifters.com/thehub

If you just need space to vent with out hearing unhelpful positivity. Book a spill and chill session here: stephaniekunkel.com/booking

About Stephanie Kunkel
Stephanie Kunkel is a published author, who is passionate about personal development, compassionate leadership, and making big changes that truly make things better for everyone. She's got a masters degree in leadership and management and is a Certified Mental Health First Aider.

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Stephanie Kunkel

Stephanie Kunkel is a published author, who is passionate about personal development, compassionate leadership, and making big changes that truly make things better for everyone. She's got a masters degree in leadership and management and is a Certified Mental Health First Aider.