I listened to a great podcast recently that was all about awareness of the language we use on a daily basis. I talk about this very often with my patients.
Let’s talk about this in the context of pain. Pain is so complicated and is almost never 100% physical. Stress, sleep disturbances, nutrition habits, and our state of mind will all impact how we physically feel. If we constantly tell ourselves we “can’t” do something because it’s hard or it hurts, you are going to start to believe it.
Being hyper-focused on pain levels can be debilitating mentally. If all you think or talk about is how much pain you feel at any given moment, you’re going to start to feel pain constantly. In my opinion, the 0-10 pain scale is the worst thing that ever happened to PT. If you’ve been a patient of mine you probably notice I rarely ask “on a scale of 0-10, what’s your pain like today?”. How about instead of focusing on what is still painful or difficult, we reframe this question and ask “what was easier for you this week?” or “what did you do successfully this week?”.
Why aren’t we focusing more on our daily wins? We should be.
Let’s take another example I hear on repeat: “I can’t do that exercise because it’s bad for my back”
First of all, no exercise is inherently good or bad. There may be a better choice at a specific moment in time, but avoiding something forever because you perceive it to be “bad” creates fear avoidance behavior. That’s extremely counterproductive. Second of all, “I can’t” shouldn’t be in our vocabulary. Let’s reframe the statement and set us up for more success. “This exercise is hard and I haven’t been successful at it YET”. Can you see and hear the difference? We acknowledge the truth that a particular exercise may be difficult, but we’ve also set ourselves up for potential success in the future. We aren’t creating fear.
Are there relevant factors or circumstances that will impact how we achieve a specific goal or outcome? Of course. Is pain one of those factors? Of course. But because you have pain doing a specific task, does that mean you can NEVER do that again? Absolutely not. We just need a plan.
Step 1 is believing that you aren’t “broken”.
I beg you, stop saying that. It’s not even remotely true.
Our words matter, and we should all start to be more aware of how we say things. I challenge you all to attempt to eliminate “I can’t” from your vocabulary and see what happens.