“I can’t do it!” she yelled out loud.
That was my daughter during a recent cross country race, somewhere between mile 2 and 3.
She hadn’t done that before… the out loud yelling thing. It startled us, her parents, her biggest fans, her #1 and #2 spectators. Her coach might have been surprised as well.
The day was hot, and humid, and there were some VERY fast varsity girls running in front of her.
Not only did she yell out those words, she followed up with a grunt.
An innate, loud, frustration-announcing-grunt.
That kind of “I CAN’T DO IT!” moment happens to all of us, no matter how old we are. It usually happens inside our head. And sometimes, it happens frequently especially when we are trying to do something that we find challenging.
It’s when our brain sends us a message of “you are in pain, and you should stop the pain because you might literally collapse from mental or emotional exhaustion.”
Most of the time – 99.9% of the time – this message is an error.
Because it’s not entirely true.
My daughter was in pain, no doubt, but it was not true that she COULDN’T do it.
Because she did.
Not only did she finish in the top 5 of that varsity race, she cut off her personal best time by one minute.
If you know anything about cross country running… you will know she didn’t just do it, SHE CRUSHED IT.
That error message, “I CAN’T DO IT!”, is simply a way that our primitive brain is challenging our human brain.
It’s a bit of a war in our head.
It’s a challenge between the lower brain (animal) to the higher brain (human).
Can the human brain, the one that has evolved to solve challenging problems, rise to the occasion, and challenge that error message?
Can we respond to it by saying, “What if we can?”
Can we challenge it by saying, “Actually, I can!”
Can we blow its socks off by doing the opposite of what it expects?
A few hours after the race, we were all home having dinner around our family table.
The tired runner, though happy with her new 5K personal record, was recounting her experience.
“Tell us how you did it despite what you were feeling,” inquired my husband.
“I don’t know… it was so hard. It was so hot. They were so fast. I didn’t know if I could finish,” she replied with that familiar teenager-tone in her voice.
“But you did so well. How did you do it?” I followed up.
Her reply was pretty magical. She said:
“I guess I stopped thinking about it, and just let my body do it.”
She stopped trying, and started doing.
She stopped listening to her primitive brain that was hoping to protect her, and allowed her body to do what it was capable of.
Like a famous character once said : “There is no try. There is only DO.”
And that is how we rise above our self doubt, and discomfort. We allow our ability to DO and in doing so, we cultivate self trust in the most profound way.