If I Can Do It, You…Can’t Necessarily

I hate the expression “If I can do it, you can do it.” It really makes me mad! It’s ridiculous and completely baseless. Come on, there’s nothing about me that proves anything about you and vice versa. Taken one way, it’s self-deprecating. It appears to be sending the message, “If an idiot like me can do this, anyone can.” Which is also something of an insult the other direction, like you’re an idiot too. But I think we largely ignore what I see as the real message of this all-too common phrase: “I did it, now I challenge you to do it, you have no excuses.”

I appreciated the responses I got to this post about Exercise Anxiety. It illustrates a point about how people bring change in their lives. Is it by motivation and cheerleading? Is it by stories of inspiration? Is it by shame and showing them over and over how other people have reached accomplishments? Is it by comparing themselves to someone else and assuming that the abilities and outcomes of others should be the same for them?

Ultimately we all change by how we respond to our experiences. We all need what we need. We experience our lives in our own unique way. We have our own set of abilities, preferences, and comfort levels. We alone know what “speaks” to us. Something I’ve seen first hand in the past several years is that if you want to lend effective support to someone, you have to go to where they are. If you insist they have to come to you, they might never make it. I’ve never seen any value in making comparisons to anyone else. Because someone else might have to deal with something exceedingly difficult does not make the toughest thing in my life any easier for me. I get particularly peeved when someone in the media is interviewed about something exceptional they’ve done but they insist if they did it, anyone could! If it was so damn easy why are these dopes on TV? Awhile back I saw a story about these Vietnamese brothers. After leaving Viet Nam as refugees, their lives in the US were very difficult. Their father died and they struggled. But both boys won full scholarships to Ivy League universities. And what did they say about that? Well, if they did it, they said anyone could! I’m a smart person but I could not have won a full scholarship to an Ivy League school. Or maybe what they did was really not so great?

For those of us who deal with serious obesity, trying to manage our weight can become the greatest symbol of failure in our lives. Every diet we go on, every new exercise program we sign up for, every new product or book we buy becomes yet another tombstone in the graveyard of our dead and buried weight loss attempts. I believe the primary reason we struggle so severely is because we try to do what we’re told worked for others and what we’re told we “should” do. As if we all popped out of a cookie cutter. Yeah well maybe the latest and greatest diet or exercise gadget just doesn’t click for you!

I know what I can do. But what can you do? Change what you eat for breakfast. Get something other than your usual at Starbucks. Climb one flight of stairs on your lunch break. Read instead of watching TV tonight. Start one of those “get around to it” projects. Buy a vegetable you’ve never made and give it a try. Start from where you are. Start with what you have and what you can do in the briefest amount of time. If you like it, keep doing it. If you don’t, try something else. Give yourself the opportunity to experience something new. Then let it take you somewhere you’ve never been.