Limitations threaten our perceptions

Acknowledging limitations poses a major threat to a number of our cultural values and norms. Our culture teaches us that people have unlimited potential and that they can be whatever they want as long as you work hard enough. It’s a silly philosophy- but it’s also one that is difficult to tear down because, if you don’t accomplish your goal, then someone easily rationalize it by saying, “They must not have worked hard enough.” That allows us to continue the fantasy that nothing can stop hard work and that means we all have the potential for “greatness.”

Acknowledging limitations isn’t popular because, if we did acknowledge them, then it would mean giving up on this fantasy that everyone has equal opportunities at greatness. Even worse, we are a culture of people so obsessed with avoiding pain such that we will go out of our way to deny that pain even exists. When we can’t deny the pain exists, we will deny that it continues to impact us. “I’m over it, I’ve moved on.”

So, we try to deny limitations. Or we talk as if we’ve overcome things that we haven’t yet overcome because it’s hard for us to face the fact that we are limited. Or we simply come up with a replacement “thing.” Yesterday, I wrote about my friend who lost his fiancé to a car accident. Today, he is happily married with children. But that isn’t a replacement wife, and those aren’t replacement kids. He still carries the pain of his loss, and that is okay. If he doesn’t acknowledge that then the pain itself may run amok, causing all kinds of damage he is unaware of. That unintentional damage can be limited if we’re willing to acknowledge life’s limitations and its confines and learn to work within them. In other words, acknowledging limitations as a result of our pain does not create problems for us. However, refusing to acknowledge our limitations does.