“But I’m Just A ______” — Or: How We Limit Ourselves

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in the 2011 Kansas Patient Centered Medical Home Initiative Summit (PCMHI) with a diverse community of health care providers, health technology developers, patients and community members. I had the opportunity to meet some incredible people & to be inspired by the stories of patients who have faced incredible challenges.  People like Mike Sevilla, April Foreman, and Maria McClatchie. But this post isn’t actually about the summit.  Dr. Mike Sevilla, of “Family Medicine Rocks” fame, has posted several great videos if you’d like a taste of the experience.  This post is about a phrase I heard over and over during the summit.

Did I mention that this was a great community?  Tons of talent, all kinds of passion, buckets of commitment to improving healthcare and patient experiences.  These are people who are working hard to make a difference.  But over and over, I heard people start conversations or respond to compliments with, “Oh, I’m just a: mom, nurse, family practice doctor, rural psychologist, patient.” To me, this statement is an indication of self-limitation.  It’s a reflection of the insecurities that we all carry around inside of us. After several repetitions of this phrase, it started to jump out at me.  And it made me wonder: if I was hearing “but I’m just…” from this group of amazing people, how prevalent is that self-limitation for all of us?

Why the Self-Limitation?

Once I tuned in, I noticed that this kind of “I’m just” thinking creeps into my life pretty regularly.  I think there are many reasons that we use that phrase.  It might be a way for us to decrease the expectations that we set for ourselves. It might be an attempt to help others feel more comfortable, to convey that we’re “just one of the gang.”  Or it might be that we truly do feel as though we are “just” defined, limited, explained by one of our roles.  I think that it’s almost an automatic response.  Regardless of the reason, I think that it may be time to challenge ourselves to do differently.

Challenge: Think About Expanding

By the end of the PCMHI summit, I noticed that I was getting defensive.  Every time I heard someone refer to her or himself as “just a (fill in the blank),” I wanted to argue.  I wanted to say, to each of them, “there is no just about anything you do or anything you are.  You’re amazing, and talented, and an inspiration.  And I realized, that maybe that feedback doesn’t need to come from me to them.  Maybe that feedback needs to be from each of us to ourselves.   Maybe we need to take some time to let ourselves become more aware of and comfortable with the good stuff that we’re bringing to the table.

So here’s my challenge to you: the next time you’re tempted to say, “I’m just…,” please stop.  Take a moment and breathe.  Let yourself explore the possibility that you bring a lot to the table. Let yourself wonder what could happen if you’re able to expand instead of limit.  And then go out and do that.

Do you have stories for us?  How can you stop limiting yourself?

Photo Credit: Ann Becker-Schutte

4 thoughts on ““But I’m Just A ______” — Or: How We Limit Ourselves

  1. I didn’t know this when I began practicing yoga, but it has become a way I’ve stopped limiting myself. There were poses that on Day 1 were completely impossible to me. But with slow, steady progress, I am now able to get into so many of those previously impossible poses.

    So I have shown myself that limits are temporary. Because of this, I have been brave enough for LASIK (fear previously limited me) and to snow ski (again, fear had previously limited me).

    I really like your challenge!

    1. Lori,

      Congratulations on all the ways you’re shedding your self-limitations! I hope that the LASIK opens up all kinds of new layers of enjoying your family and your life. And I agree with you that yoga is a lovely practice for changing how we understand our limits.

      So glad to hear your voice here!


    1. Rosie,

      I think that this experience was similar to your description of being handed a lesson until we learn it. It sure hit me over the head. Thanks for stopping by.


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