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Why I Stopped Telling Myself “I Can Do It!”

January 19, 2019
epiphanies and thoughts

Many people and youtube videos in my life have told me to persist by affirming yourself “you can do it!” when you feel like giving up.

I have followed that advice loyally for many years, until a week ago.

I was practicing the butterfly stroke, and was doing terribly at it, in terms of endurance and strength.

It was a stroke I learned only recently (I wanted to because it’s so cooooool!).

The whole period of my struggle I have been telling myself in my head supposedly motivational affirmations like “you can do it!” and “you’re better than this!” and “you’re weak so be stronger!”, etc.

That did nothing but make me tired by the many failed reps of which I was mostly sinking.

Then I got frustrated, and after that frustration came indifference.

So I started just swimming without thinking “okay, I must be strong and stay horizontal and keep kicking and etc etc…” and I DID IT! I didn’t know what happened as I did it. It just came so fast and uncertainly to me.

I was elated and of course, did more laps, trying to go further than I had the last time.

But again, the thought “you can do it!” started flooding my mind when I got tired during a lap, and then I started to sink. Every time I think “you can do it!” I sink and my arms feel so much heavier.

Aside from the technical aspects that I lack, I realize everytime I think/say “you can do it!” to myself, I’m at the brink of not being able to do it.

And in this case, even if I was motivated to do it, I was sinking and my technique turned to shit.

So I realized that instead of holding onto the cold, urgent statement of “you can do it!”, if you are able to take a normal breath (instead of a deep, intentional breath) and just do it without the mental distractions of “I need to win this person!” or “I need to hold my breath!” or “you can do it!”, whatever you’re doing, it probably will become easier to do.

I guess you just have to stop judging yourself by what you are now, and stop hounding yourself for not being what you aspire to be now.

If you let go of all that and just focus on doing, that’ll make you happy for doing whatever you’re doing in the present moment which will then result in progress.

Even when I was learning to ride a motorcycle, it was only after that phase of frustration, that I could ride with ease. 

Only when I stopped judging myself for being shitty at it.

On the other side of the coin, “you can do it!” can only stem from the thought that you can’t. So instead, just do it.

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