5 Self-Limiting Phrases That Are Stealing Your Power (and What to Say Instead)

BY Whitney Gordon-Mead        September 25, 2020

Affirmations are the cornerstone of my morning routine. 

They’re carefully worded. When I recite them aloud, I feel focused and empowered.

But affirmations are deliberate and intentional declarations. 

What about words that slip into your daily conversations and thought patterns? 

Little phrases that rob your power without you realizing it.  Tiny words that seem insignificant but actually undermine your power and authority.

This is your wake-up call to fine-tune your inner and outer dialogue. Here are five self-limiting phrases that are stealing your power.

Ditch these 5 self-limiting phrases and reclaim your power:

1. “I SHOULD.”

Many times in a day, do you tell yourself you "should" do something? 

  • I should exercise. 
  • I should stop sleeping in. 
  • I should tidy up. 
  • I should be doing more, more, more. 

There's always something you should be doing. 

But chances are, every “should” is accompanied by a negative emotion.

Guilt. Shame. Disappointment.

So, why do you burden yourself with all these “shoulds?"

Is it because that’s how you were raised? Or to gain social acceptance? Or because the news told you so?

But, see. You’re letting some outside entity enforce their own values on your life.

The things that other people tell you that you “should” do might not even align with your values and goals.

Start saying “I WANT.”

Return to your goals and priorities. The things that advance those goals and manifest your values are what you want to do, not what you should do.

Notice how different these two statements sound:

  1. I should exercise after work even though I feel tired at this moment.
  2. I want to exercise after work even though I feel tired at this moment.

In the first statement, exercise sounds like a burden. In the second, exercise feels like something to look forward to.

This small language shift can help you advance your goals. And according to  Merrily Sadlovsky, MSW, your “inner critic may be minimized, and maybe even silenced over time.”

2. “I'LL TRY.”

“Do or do not. There is no try.” ~ Yoda

Yes, Yoda is fictional, but his wisdom is genuine.

Trying isn’t achieving. It’s giving yourself permission to fail.

Ever notice how “I try” is often followed by “but?”

  • I tried learning guitar, but it was too difficult. 
  • I tried asking for a raise, but I decided to wait. 
  • I tried saying no, but they wouldn't let up about it. 

Successful people don't try. 

They get things done.

They learn the guitar. They earn that raise. They say no and mean it.

Start saying "I WILL."

"I'll try" is wishy-washy. “I will” is empowering.

It’s a declaration that you get results; that even in temporary failure, you will still get the job done.

Practice this change now.

What's one thing you've “tried,” but didn't see the results you wanted? Turn it into an "I will" declaration and share it in the comments below. 

3. “I THINK.”

"I think" is a shield for your feelings. When you’re criticized, you can quickly hide behind “it’s just my opinion.”

But doing this diminishes your power.

Your informed opinion holds value. And when you preface your thoughts with “I think,” you’re telling others that it can be dismissed.

It chips at your confidence and undermines your authority.

When you say, “I think I’ll be an asset to your company if you hire me,” how does that make you sound?

At best, you sound uncertain. 

Are you an asset to the company or not?

It’s time to stop thinking and start asserting yourself.

Ditch the preface altogether.

You don’t need a phrase like “I think” to introduce your thoughts.

Assert your opinion and take a stance.

“Yes, I am an asset to your company. Here's why you should hire me.”

Say it loudly. Declare it proudly.

Show others and yourself that your thoughts and words carry power.

4. “I HOPE.”

This one might be surprising. What’s wrong with hoping?

When you say “I hope,” it diminishes two things:

  1. The power of your statement.
  2. Your trust in your Higher Power.

Take a look at this statement.

“I hope that my business takes off.”

Notice how “I hope” is a lot like “I’ll try”?

The end result feels uncertain. You give up your power.

Will you make it happen or not?

Start saying “I TRUST.”

When you put your trust in something, you’re trusting that the universe is on your side. 

You trust that everything that happens is for your highest good.

And you have faith that your Higher Power will grant you the knowledge and tools to create the change you want to see in your life.

5. “I CAN'T.”

Yes, there are times when things will be left undone. Or you may need to decline when somebody asks you for a favor.

But when you use the words, “I can’t,” it suggests a limit on your potential or ability.

And in some cases, that may be true — you might not have the expertise or resources at this moment. Or maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed with life or suffering signs of burnout. 

However, there’s another way to convey this without compromising your power.

Start saying "I'M NOT ABLE TO."

What’s the difference?

“I can’t” is limiting. 

“I’m not able to” is about setting healthy boundaries. 

It tells others that this other obligation or request doesn’t fit into your life at this moment.

It’s your choice.

Everything you say and do conveys something about yourself. 

Even those tiny words like “try” and “should.”

But these seemingly insignificant phrases say a lot. 

They influence how others perceive you and what you think of yourself.

“I’ll try” says that you’re comfortable with quitting. “I will” says that you’re an achiever.

Will you let your language steal your power?

Or will you use it to empower yourself and manifest your priorities?

You’re at choice with how you present yourself.

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Whitney Gordon-Mead

Whitney Gordon-Mead, MSc is a Speaker, Certified Life Coach, and Ordained Minister. With 3 decades of experience researching personal growth and how we heal from within, she healed herself from fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and burnout. Her strategies help women avoid and recover from burnout, and she partners with them to reclaim their passion and create the life they desire. Having experienced first-hand the challenges of finding physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual balance, Whitney believes that life is meant to be enjoyed, not endured!!! You’ll find Whitney’s gift: “From Burnout To Balance: A Simple 10-Minute Daily Self-Care Practice” at

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