Self-limiting Beliefs

Readers of a certain age will remember the last lines of The Breakfast Club…

Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong, but we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain and an athlete and a basket case; a princess and a criminal.

Every time I start to write a post like this, I imagine people rolling their eyes and laughing at me for sounding like this 80s Brat Pack movie.

But really: it’s kind of profound, don’t you think?

Whenever I tell people that I write a blog, magazine articles, or even attend writing classes, at least one person responds, “Oh, that’s great.  I am not a writer.”

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Huh?  I think.  Everyone is a writer.  I’ve told people many times that knowing where to put a comma vs. a semi-colon isn’t the same as writing.  I try to stay away from my natural tendency to tell everyone how to live their lives, but if I could give everyone one piece of advice, it is to keep a daily journal.  Whatever that means.  For me, it means a notebook and a timer set for 15 minutes every morning.  And whatever is on my mind comes out.  Mostly simple and banal, mostly just a full bucket that needs some emptying.  This process clears out the murk and allows me to think more clearly and creatively.

A writer, I tell people, is just a person who writes.  It’s not necessarily Ernest Hemingway.

A few weeks ago, I decided to start a running program with an eye toward running a 5K in early May.  For some of you, that may sound like a lame goal, but it’s a big deal for me.  It means that I am learning to set realistic goals for myself.  That increases my chance of success, but also makes me more accountable, and therefore vulnerable to public scorn in the face of failure.  That’s a great attitude, huh?

As with any new project, I started this one by spending a lot of money.  I went to the local running store to get fitted for proper running shoes.  Do I pronate?  Superpronate?  I studied my shoes and had no idea, so I thought it best be answered by the experts.  During the conversation with the shoe fitting guru, he asked me what I’m working on.  I told him and found myself demeaning myself, or perhaps giving myself an out by saying, “I am so not a runner.”

He looked at me and said, “Anyone can be a runner.  A runner is just a person who runs.”


Fear of failure?  Fear of success?   Excuses?

I don’t know.  But it’s got me actually catching myself before I tell people how I’m not an artist, or a musician, or a math wizard, or any number of things I say I’m not.

I am sure of one thing – Words Matter.   There is a difference between telling someone that I am not a runner and telling someone that I’ve never seriously tried running before.  One eliminates potential.  One puts the onus on me to try, or not to try.