I Can’t

Clients usually come to me for coaching because they have an issue they cannot resolve on their own. These people are talented and capable individuals who live well-adjusted and secure lives, yet are overwhelmed by an inability to create something they desire in their lives.

In most areas, they thrive and are highly successful; while in others, they are lost at sea, struggling to find a way forward.

How is this possible?

Barrier Thought: I Can’t

This can be because they have the “I can’t” barrier thought running in their mind. This thought predicts that if they take a specific action, an unpleasant or dire consequence will follow. Therefore, to avoid the perceived hazard, they remain frozen in inaction

They are able to say “no”, in some areas of their life; but in others are unable to do so leaving them feeling completely stuck and powerless.  

This thinking typically begins with the statement “I can’t”.

I can’t:

  • bring up the topic with her
  • control my temper
  • post on social media (even though I want to)
  • skip eating at the work morning tea, even it’s if it’s my preference not to
  • say, no

Defining the Situation

When I work with a client, we begin by defining the situation and unpacking the beliefs that lay beneath their inaction. They then, typically, list a range of reasons they feel they can’t do something. 

On the surface, the reason appears valid and reasonable. However, with some investigation, we are able to identify the thoughts that hold up the belief that keeps them from succeeding. 

For example:

  • I can’t bring up the topic with her because she will get verbally aggressive.
  • I can’t control my temper because I just lose it and it all just pours out.
  • I can’t post anything on social media (even though I want to), because I’ll embarrass myself and people will look down on me.
  • I can’t skip eating morning tea at a work function, even it’s if it’s my preference not to, because it will look odd.

When we hold on to reasons which begin with the phrase, I can’t — we trap ourselves in our own internal prison.

A Way Forward

One way forward is to consider the question: Is this really something that I can’t do? Or is it something that I won’t do?

Can’t means, you don’t have the skill or ability to do it.

Won’t means, you are making a choice — be it unconsciously— not to do it.

So how do we navigate through this?

Begin by rephrasing the barrier thought I CAN’T to I WON’T then add the word “AND” to the sentence. This allows you to see things with a different perspective.

Using the examples above. Let’s try it out:

I won’t bring up the topic with her because she will get verbally aggressive, and I don’t have a strategy to deal with her meltdown.


I won’t skip eating at the morning tea work function because it will look odd, and I really don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to eat some delicious food.

With this perspective, you can turn the barrier thought around by changing the word won’t to can, thus giving yourself more options. 

  • I can bring up the topic with her, and if she’s get verbally aggressive, I will confidently and kindly do X, Y, Z.
  • I can skip eating morning tea at a work function, because I can say I’m detoxing. Everyone will leave me alone and I know there will be another opportunity to eat this another time. I can resist the urge to eat it now.

Once you have realized that your desired outcome is possible, a decision and action plan can be made to address the barrier and achieve the goal.

  • I will bring up the topic with her because I would like to deal with the elephant in the room and resolve this situation.
  • I will skip eating at the work morning tea because I have self-control and I don’t need it. My weight-loss goal is more important to me.

Saying “I Can’t” is you saying “I Won’t“, because you are expecting a bad outcome or consequence, and prefer to avoid it. By doing so, you get locked into the state of “I Can’t”.


When you say “I can’t,” take a moment to think it through. Is it something you really can’t do or is it that you won’t do it? By turning the thought around to I can and I will, pathways to action immediately appear before you.

Ishani Noble helps people improve their self-esteem. She is an expert at helping people overcome barrier thinking and being unstoppable in creating their dream life.

If you are interested in working through a situation wherein you feel that you can’t wholeheartedly move forward, reach out and contact Ishani today. She can be reached by emailing: Ishani@selfesteemconsulting.com

Barrier Thinking

Over the 25 years that I have been involved with self-esteem enhancement courses, the key takeaway I have for clients is that it is the thoughts we think and act out that are our greatest asset — or our largest liability.

Past events and experiences have a way of triggering the mind to create barriers. Our minds build these barriers to protect us by controlling what it believes is safe to think, say, do, or even, believe. 

I call it Barrier Thinking.

What is Barrier Thinking?

Barrier Thinking is when what we think or believe become barriers to living the life we really want to live.

Have you noticed yourself procrastinating or changing the way you present yourself just to please whoever you are with at the time? This is a result of Barrier Thinking.

Just as parents put physical barriers around their children — like a playpen around an infant to keep them safe — we too, as adults, put barriers around ourselves in the form of thinking patterns to keep ourselves safe.

But as we move forward, it may well be that these thoughts and beliefs are no longer necessary. This is why it is important to question them. Questioning your barrier thoughts and beliefs will provide a significant degree of internal freedom and mental energy —  energy that can be used to focus on achieving goals and creating your dream life.

7 Examples of Barrier Thinking

There are seven barrier thoughts I often come across with clients who are experiencing low self-esteem or do not achieve their set goals.

1. Barrier Thought: I Am Not Good Enough

This Barrier Thought holds on to the belief that the person is not enough. Despite all their natural skills, education, talents and efforts, they believe that they are a failure and therefore not good enough.

2. Barrier Thought: Stuck in Comparison and Jealousy

This kind of thinking stems from looking at someone and comparing your lifestyle or circumstances to theirs, only to conclude that yours is not as good. Perhaps you think you are not worthy of the life they have or that you are not as talented as they are.

These thoughts can be as simple as “she’s prettier” or “he’s more successful” than I am.

If not controlled, this kind of barrier thinking can become repetitive, habitual, and very hard to break out of.

3. Barrier Thought: I’m Different, Therefore I Can’t Connect With Them

With this Barrier Thought, the mind finds a reason to justify why you are different and isolated. For example, “I am single”, “I‘m not sporty, or “I’m of a different faith or religion”.

For myself, growing up in Palmerston North as the only brown-skinned child in my class led me to think I was different and left me feeling isolated. These thoughts became my self-created barrier to connection.

4. Barrier Thought: There’s Something Wrong With Me

Similar to the barrier thought, “I’m different”, the thinker creates a barrier belief that there is something wrong with them. They genuinely believe that if anyone were to find out about it, then we would reject them. Because of this thought, they reject themselves.

5. Barrier Thought: I’ve Done Something That Is Unforgivable

With this barrier thought, the thinker believes that they have done something unforgivable. This deed, in their mind, is something so terrible and perhaps, against their own moral code — that even they cannot forgive themselves.

Even if God and others forgive them, they still cannot forgive themselves because they feel that they have violated their own internal sense of morality, and so, hold on to self-resentment or self-directed ill will.

6. Barrier Thought: A Painful End to a Friendship or Relationship

If you have relied on a friend, partner, or family member to give you love, approval, and appreciation —  and one day they stop giving it to you, this can cause feelings of pain and emptiness.

Relying on others to provide you with a constant stream of positive thought stimulation never ends well. The affirmation from these people in your life becomes a drug; and withdrawal from that drug is a painful process.

7. Barrier Thought: I can’t do ____ because____ will happen

This barrier thought predicts that if action is taken, a dire consequence will occur. Therefore to avoid the perceived hazard one remains frozen in inaction.

Overcoming Barrier Thinking

These thinking barriers prevent us from being free and living an enjoyable life. Overcoming barrier thinking is not only possible; it is very doable.

Inquiry* is one process I offer in this programme. This will you discover that you don’t have to “let go” of the barrier thoughts. Instead, as you question their truthfulness, they will let go of you.

Once you are free from the influence of your barrier thoughts, taking action to create your dream life becomes easy and doable.

Ishani Noble helps people improve their self esteem. She is an expert at helping people overcome barrier thinking and being unstoppable in creating their dream life.

If you are interested in boosting your self-esteem or removing barrier thinking and launching yourself wholeheartedly into your next goal then definitely reach out and request a free strategy session today.

*Inquiry is also known as The Work of Byron Katie