Over the weekend I was chatting with Jeff, my bard master, and we got on the subject of accents. I mentioned that, although I have a chameleon accent and pick up what others are speaking around me, I can’t manage a brogue to save my life.
He sat straight up in his chair and said, rather sternly, “How is it you’ve been my apprentice for two years and haven’t discovered I hate that word?”
When I asked which word, he said, “Can’t. As soon as you can’t, you can’t.”
He’s right. I used to tell my kids that years ago when we were homeschooling. It’s more than a matter of semantics. Saying you can’t do something sets up mental barriers. Tell yourself you can’t do something enough, and you’ll prove yourself right, and let me tell you, mental barriers are tough to break. Even worse, the more you think you can’t, the thicker those barriers get until, before you know it, you’ve got a stronghold.
Much better to cut yourself some slack and say, for instance, “I have a hard time with a brogue. I haven’t been able to sustain it for more than a sentence.” We don’t do that, though, because can’t is such a little word. It’s innocuous. Almost harmless, on the surface, until you have a barrier to break and realize where it came from. It makes me wonder how many times I’ve told myself I can’t and internalized it without realizing. Maybe it’s time to say I can.