If I can do it, so can you!!!!

Posted on January 19, 2011


I hate to rant on that phrase too much, because I know when people say it they mean well, but I can’t help but be irked by it.  The snarky, smart ass side of me wants to blurt out ” Well whoop-dee-doo, you accomplished something, congratulations!” or ” Well…if you were able to do it, that means the bar for success is set pretty low, so maybe I can do it.”   My internal reactions vary depending on how “If I can do it, so can you!” is said, and who is saying it.   I bite my tongue though, because like I said most people saying it mean well, and I don’t want to hurt their feelings.  Here’s the thing though, saying it to someone isn’t helpful, at all.  I am sorry, and maybe it’s just me that feels this way, but it really is the least helpful thing a person can say to someone else.  It’s like the laziest form of encouragement ever.  When one person says that to another they don’t have to offer any actual advice, any tips, or ideas, and obviously they are not obligated to do so, but sometimes it can make a world of difference to another person.

I guess probably the main reason the phrase irks me, besides me just being a sarcastic grump, is I always hear it with this kind of  “suck it up, BOOTSTRAPS!! If you fail you just aren’t trying hard enough”  undertone.  Again, that may just be me, and I’ll own that, but this blog is my blog where I get to be me,me, me, me, if I want!  Of course I just went down the “suck it up” road in that last sentence, and in a lot of cases I am very much a proponent of “sucking it up” because sometimes there is no other choice, and whining won’t get you anywhere.   In this case it just seems condescending.  I guess the best way to illustrate my thoughts is by example.

I quit smoking 6 months ago (it’ll be exactly 6 months on the 24th).  I smoked for 14 years, I tried to quit several times in that 14 years, and have managed only one other time to go 6 months (it was 10 months total) but that last time much different from this time, and I am proud of myself for coming this far, and I just know in my bones I’ll be a non-smoker from now on.  The main reason I want to remain a non-smoker, besides improving my health, is I don’t ever want to have to quit smoking again.  It was rough, it’s always been rough, when I tried in the past, and I ‘ve done cold turkey, the patch, the gum, the lozenge, and trying to wean myself off of cigarettes.   This time though I used Chantix, and it worked great at first, but the side effects (emotional/mental ones for me) were brutal, and the Wellbutrin/Zyban my doctor put me on afterwards ended up making it worse.  So not only was I going through physical withdrawals, as well as psychological one, but I was also becoming an emotional basket case, and was slowly sinking into a deep depression…of which my usual coping mechanism for high emotions was, you guessed it, smoking! So I quit (well weaned myself off of, under the care of my doctor) taking the Wellbutrin, and got to withdraw from that as well.     In short it was a rocky road for me, and it was a much tougher quitting experience than I had, had in the past, but I did it, I fought through and I made it to the other side.

After all of that I could say to someone who is trying to quit smoking “If I can do it, anyone can/so can you!”   The thing is though, I am not them, and they are not me.  I don’t know what individual hurdles they will have to overcome in order to quit smoking for good.  They may be able to go cold turkey, or with a patch, or they may be able to use Chantix or Zyban with no side effects, and it may be a breeze for them, or it may be even tougher for them.  Who am I to tell them that they can do something just because I could?  Who am I to maybe make them feel like they are not strong enough, or they didn’t try hard enough because they tripped up, or couldn’t do it, or need to start over. I am not such a hard case that everybody else is going to have it easy compared to me, nor does quitting through such a rough experience make me stronger, or better, or more special than anyone else.  I also at one point in my life lost around 130 lbs pretty much by just exercising a lot, but that doesn’t mean that, that is what would work for someone else.  To imply otherwise makes it seem like quitting smoking, or dropping that much weight is one size fits all, and we all know that, that is not true.

Maybe I am just being ranty.  Maybe none of this even makes any sense, but it seems like I have heard that phrase in plethora this week, and I don’t know… it just feels like such a flippant thing to say to someone, especially if it happens to be someone you know and care about.  I just feel like if you want to encourage a friend or a loved one as they embark on something that you have experience with, and you really want to encourage them, just be there to listen.  Let them know you understand where they are coming from, maybe share some things that worked for you that might be helpful, or useful for them, but don’t make them feel like your experience is what sets the bar for them.  That’s just me.  What are your thoughts?