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It’s very hard for me to admit that I can’t do something.

There are certain things (cooking, running marathons, blow drying my hair) with which I am happy to admit defeat. I can do them passably (except for the marathons, because those are for crazy people), and I am okay with that. I may be self-conscious about these limited abilities, but I’m also at peace knowing they are not for me. Other people can be good at them. And my hair will air dry.

But the other stuff, that stuff that matters — I want to do it all, and I want to be good at it. I want to challenge myself. I want to be everything (when needed) for everyone (who needs it). I hate admitting failure as much as I hate admitting fear.

I’m enough of a type A personality and a perfectionist that I not only refuse to walk away from a challenge, but I want to do it well. Because if you’re doing a job, you  might as well make yourself proud.

I do not like to say “I can’t.” Because of course I can — if I try hard enough. Because really, what is impossible? If I physically can’t do something that’s one thing (and still occasionally frustrating), but to admit I cannot do something mentally? That excuse reeks of cowardice and weakness and laziness.

So I always say yes, I can. I can do that. I can handle that. I can take that. Bring it on.

Except, sometimes, I can’t.

And even though it makes me feel small and cowardly and weak to admit it, I have to admit that I can’t handle everything.

I recently dated someone who enjoyed doing things that were difficult for me to handle. I tried. I insisted that it would be okay. Because I am not a coward. I am not weak. I am not small. It was merely a matter of stretching my emotional capacity — and who can’t do that, given a little motivation? I would never say, I can’t handle that — because that would be letting everyone down.

Well, I couldn’t handle it.

After trying to convince myself that I could, after exercising intellect and denial and perseverance in the process, I had to admit defeat.

Sometimes mind cannot be superimposed over matter. Sometimes there are certain things we cannot do. And then we have to wave the white flag and admit defeat. And even though it feels miserable and small, it’s also the reality of being human beings and not fail-proof operating systems.

Maybe knowing when to wave the white flag, knowing when to walk away, knowing when to say “I can’t” is actually a sign of strength. Perhaps recognizing your own boundaries and limitations is a reflection of maturity and self-awareness.

Fingers crossed I can make myself believe that.

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