You’ve heard it before: the classic shrug: “It’s just the way I am.” Maybe you’ve said it yourself. It’s a cozy little comfort blanket, isn’t it?
But the thing is, that cozy blanket can keep you from growing.
I understand, change can be hard and confronting our own limitations even harder. We all have our favorite phrases that help us avoid discomfort. But do they serve us well?
The truth is, these words might actually be a sign that we’re stuck in a fixed mindset, and that’s a rut no one wants to stay in.
You are not alone if you find yourself falling back on these sentences. Many of us do that. Still, recognizing them is the first step in shedding that blanket and embracing a growth mindset.
So let’s be real for a moment. Let’s take a look at some of those phrases that hold us back more than we think.
Ready to challenge the status quo? Let’s start.
1) “I’m just not a math person”
I remember sitting in high school algebra class and feeling the numbers and equations swirling around me like an inscrutable code. “I’m just not a math person,” I would say, almost like a badge of honor.
But what did I actually say? That I wasn’t able to understand math?
That my brain was somehow programmed to reject anything numerical? It took a patient teacher and several mindset shifts to realize that this was my escape hatch to take on a challenge.
Years later, the truth dawned on me: I had set my own limitations. Once I said that sentence and embraced the struggle, something amazing happened. I didn’t become a mathematician overnight, but those problems started to make sense.
It turned out that I could learn math after all.
2) “I’ve always been like this”
Ah, the classic defense of the unchanging self. “That’s how I’ve always been,” as if I was carved in stone at birth with no room for edits or rewrites. I always thought that my shyness in social situations was just an unchangeable part of who I was.
Networking events? Terrifying. Components? Tiring. That’s just who I am…or so I thought.
But when I had to network for a dream job, I had to face this ‘immutable’ property frontal. With practice (and lots of awkward conversations), I discovered that my social skills could improve.
These were not fixed qualities, but muscles that needed to be trained and strengthened.
And while I may never be the life of the party, “always” turned out to be an awfully long time that didn’t take into account my ability to adapt and grow.
3) “I don’t have the talent for this”
We often see the end result of someone’s hard work and call it “talent,” as if it happened overnight. This has been my escape more times than I can count when comparing myself to others.
But here’s the problem: studies have shown that consistent exercise can rewire the brain, forging new connections and possibilities. The plasticity of the brain is not really concerned with so-called natural talent. It responds to effort and perseverance.
When I first picked up a guitar, my fingers felt like they were all thumbs. “I don’t have the talent for this,” became a useful refrain every time I played a chord.
But as I learned about musicians who spent countless hours practicing before becoming “overnight successes,” I realized I had to stick with it, and slowly but surely the music started to flow a little easier.
4) “It’s too late for me to start”
The clock is ticking, the years pass and we tell ourselves that the ship has followed our dreams. “It’s too late for me to begin,” becomes a refrain that resonates through the choices we didn’t make, the paths we never trod.
Yet in this resignation there lies a silent tragedy: the surrender to time as an enemy instead of as an ally.
Every moment is an opportunity to start over, and history is rich with stories of individuals who have embraced new chapters well into their lives. There is a certain beauty in the courage to defy the societal script that dictates our best times.
The truth is that flourishing can happen at any age, that learning and growth are not limited to the young.
Embracing this can be transformative. It’s never too late to pick up a brush and paint, learn a language or dance. At every sunrise we receive an invitation to begin, regardless of the date on the calendar.
And perhaps in this realization we will find freedom – freedom to pursue passions without expiration date.
5) “Change is just too hard”
I can’t count the number of times I’ve whispered to myself, “Change is just too hard.” It has been my silent white flag whenever I have faced the steep climb out of my comfort zone.
I remember staring at job postings, knowing I was unhappy in my current role, but paralyzed by the fear of the unknown. The familiar, however suffocating, seemed so much easier to navigate than the unpredictable currents of change.
But here’s what I learned from those moments: change is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. A marathon consisting of small, persistent steps. When I finally worked up the courage to apply for a new job, it wasn’t without fear; it was with a shaking hand hovering over the ‘Send’ button.
Yet it was precisely in that vulnerability that I found my strength. Each application feels like a small victory, a small shift in the narrative that change was too difficult.
It wasn’t easy, but with every little step I built resilience. And one day I realized that change had become less of a mountain and more of a series of manageable hills.
So now when I catch myself thinking about how difficult change is, I remember that it is those challenges that have unleashed the strength within me to keep moving forward.
6) “Success is for the lucky ones”
The idea that Only luck leads our success is a story I’ve clung to more times than I’d like to admit. “Success is for the lucky,” I grumbled, as I watched others achieve their goals as if they had won a cosmic lottery.
It was an easy way to shake off my own passivity or fear of failure.
However, when I started paying attention, I noticed something crucial: those “lucky” individuals placed themselves in the path of opportunity. They networked, took risks and persevered despite setbacks.
Luck didn’t just happen to them; they actively pursued it through their choices and hard work.
7) “This is just my luck”
Conversely, it became a standard error to blame misfortune on bad luck.
“This is just my luck,” I sighed, resigned and accepted without question whatever came my way. It was a defeatist mantra that absolved me of any responsibility for the outcomes in my life.
But as I began to challenge this mindset, I saw that even in adverse situations, there were lessons to be learned and opportunities for growth. By shifting the focus from happiness to action, I discovered a sense of power I never knew I had lost.
8) “I’m too old to learn that now”
Age became a barrier that I created with my own words. “I’m too old to learn that now,” was a convenient excuse to stay within the boundaries of what I already knew. It was comfortable, it was safe and it was completely restrictive.
But as I looked around, I saw people of all ages learning new skills and changing careers. It dawned on me that age hadn’t held them back; it had enriched their perspective and fueled their desire to keep growing.
When I finally embraced this mentality, learning took on a new dimension: it became a lifelong journey instead of a race against time.
9) “If I were smarter, this would be easier”
Intelligence felt like a fixed trait, something you either had or didn’t. “If I were smarter, this would be easier,” became my internal refrain whenever I faced complex problems or steep learning curves.
Investigation neuroplasticity and learningHowever, it paints a different picture: one in which intelligence can be developed through dedication and practice.
When I started approaching challenges with curiosity instead of self-doubt, the learning process itself became more fun and effective.
10) “That’s just not my thing”
We all have our preferences and inclinations, but saying, “That’s just not my thing” can mean a quick dismissal of potential new passions or skills. It is a sentence that narrows the world down to what we already know we like or can do.
When I caught myself using this phrase to avoid new activities, I realized that every past hobby or interest started with a first step—a difficult, unfamiliar first step. By opening myself up to new experiences without preconceived ideas about what ‘my thing’ is, life became richer and more varied.
In short, the phrases we tell ourselves matter: they can lock us into a fixed mindset or propel us toward growth and change. Recognizing these sentences is the first step in rewriting our internal dialogue.
By challenging these beliefs and embracing discomfort as an opportunity for growth, we can step out of the fixed mindset that is holding us back and enter a dynamic journey of lifelong learning and self-discovery.
Finally, our mindset is as malleable as our capabilities; we just have to be willing to mold them.
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