Something I find myself telling clients who need a confidence booster is “you can do hard things.” I began offering this to clients after I realized it was something I needed to hear frequently myself. I often find myself, as well as others saying that we can’t do something because it’s hard, or we don’t even want to try something because it’s hard. What I don’t often hear, is “it’s hard, but I can do hard things.”
Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t recall hearing the message that I could do hard things when I was growing up. Usually someone tried to help me make things easier, or help me find a way around doing the hard thing, or maybe they even shared in the frustration with me, but I don’t remember anyone every saying “yes it’s hard, and you can do hard things.” I then realized that was a great message to be giving my kids, rather than trying to help them find an easier way. And of course, I realized many of my clients needed to hear the same affirmation.
It can be really hard to do trauma work, to face our demons and work through difficult experiences from the past that still have a hold on us. The emotions can be incredibly intense, so much so that it can feel like they will consume us, and we can’t see to the other side. Trauma work usually involves facing shame that we hold onto which is beyond uncomfortable to share with someone. It can be brutal doing this work, but to be free of the hold trauma can have on us we need to be brave and work through it. It’s hard, but you can do hard things.
It can feel horribly difficult and uncomfortable to sit through anxiety and try to understand it rather than fight it or drown it with alcohol or drugs. A panic attack often feels like the walls are closing in and there is no more air, which is terrifying. Medication helps sometimes, but often the only thing to do is to sit through it knowing it will end just like it has many times in the past. Sometimes the best way to reduce anxiety is to let it be there, acknowledge it, and continue moving through the thing that is causing the anxiety. This is so hard! But you can do hard things.
I look at how many times one of my kids have said that their homework or their class is really hard. I would try to help them so that it would be easier. I helped look up science fair project ideas, I helped find information for history papers, I encouraged them by telling them they only had a few more weeks and then the class would be done. If they had a particularly tough teacher, I might agree with them that it really sucks to have a teacher they didn’t get along with or share a similar experience from when I was in school. What I didn’t tell them, was “wow you’re right, this is hard. Good thing you can do hard things!”
It seems like such an obvious statement maybe, but for me it was profound. Things were really hard after my divorce and I was trying to figure out how in the world I was going to make a living and provide for 5 kids. Day after day I was faced with so many challenges, and I kept telling my friends how hard it was. Every time I told myself how hard it was, I would sink deeper and deeper into despair. Bills were piling up, I had no good job prospects, kids were struggling, I was depressed, it was a miserable time. I think if I had told myself “yes, this is hard, but I can do hard things” rather than just “this is hard”, it might have helped me be a little less depressed and overwhelmed. Something about adding on those few extra words feels like I have a little more power, that it’s a little less hopeless.
It seems like there is often the belief that because something is hard, that means it’s impossible. It’s like “hard” and “no way can’t do it” are the same thing. There’s that voice that says, “this is hard, so I might as well give up now because it’s going to be miserable and way too tough for me to do.” But when we tack on those extra words, it changes everything. We bring power to the situation; the situation doesn’t have power over us anymore. It shifts our perspective from being one of defeated, to one of facing a challenge that we are capable of handling.
How about adding in some power posing when you say the words “I can do hard things.” Now there’s a great combination! If you are unfamiliar with power posing, or the Wonder Woman pose, check out Amy Cuddy’s Ted talk https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are. Affirming to yourself that you can do hard things while striking a Wonder Woman pose could give you the confidence that you can tackle anything life throws at you!
Or how about standing on top of a chair while you tell yourself that you can do hard things. Sometimes a new perspective can do wonders for our confidence and self-esteem. Maybe it’s just because I’m vertically challenged but getting a view from a taller perspective gives me the extra boost of confidence I need sometimes. It’s like it wakes up my brain because the view from up there is so unfamiliar that it jolts me out of my slump.
Try an experiment. Say to yourself “this is so hard.” Don’t add anything on, just leave it there. Notice what happens to your mood, to your body, to your posture. Then, say to yourself “this is hard, and I can do hard things.” Again, notice what happens to your mood, to your body. Is there any change? For me, when I just leave it at “this is hard”, I find my eyes looking down toward the ground, my shoulders slump down a little, and I all of a sudden feel super tired. When I add on “I can do hard things”, it’s almost as if I get a little jolt of energy, or I have the feeling of surprise. My eyes and chin move up a bit, and I have a little surge of confidence and optimism. I also get a little feisty feeling. Like, “bring it on, cuz I got this!”
You might realize that staying stuck in the “hard” place is a habit. You might need a reminder of some kind to add on the second part. I have thought about getting a tattoo to remind me, but I haven’t gone quite that far yet. Just like any habit, it will take some time to break. No worries. Just notice that the habit is there and make the intention to create a new one. Maybe a sticky note on your mirror, or notecards placed in strategic places, or set an alarm on your phone to remind you during the day. In my personal experience as well as from what I’ve seen with clients, it’s well worth the effort to create this new message for yourself.
Just try it for a few days. Whenever you find yourself feeling like something is hard, remind yourself – “oh wait! I forgot; I can do hard things!”