The four-letter word that’s crushing your potential DEAD

Some four-letter words have a lot of power. Good and bad. Words like…

Love. Hope. Hate. Help. Fuck. Can’t.

But there is another four-letter word that can destabilise everything about a person. About you.

This word is used in a lot of introductions at conferences and it utterly undermines the person. It eats at their confidence and their authority.

The word is JUST.

I hear…

“I just have a blog.”

“I just work part-time.”

“I just…I just…I just…”

Each introduction that contained the word just told me that any impressions of greatness I’d formed were probably wrong.

You see, there is a whole lot of can’t, won’t or shouldn’t behind the word just. You can apply that to the word only as well.

These words are full of excuses.

They tell me what you’re not doing. Not what you are doing.

“I don’t have any influence. I’m just the copywriter.”
“I can’t charge that much. I’m just starting out.”
“I can’t approach an agency. I usually just work with small businesses.”
“I’m just one person.”

These are all statements I’ve said – to others and to myself.

But just is a trick to make us feel okay in the comfort zone. After all, if we don’t reach for a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal), we won’t fail. Not failing is good, right?

Don’t fall for it.

Don’t mistake my message

You don’t always have to dominate everything. You don’t have to be at the top, the most famous, work with every big brand.

But don’t talk yourself out of something before you’ve even begun.

How is it done?

Next time you hear yourself saying “I’m just…” – to others or internally – STOP. Ask yourself this. Am I excusing myself from going after something more? Or am I setting a boundary I am okay with?

If it’s the latter, carry on. I salute you. If it’s the former, spend five minutes considering if your goals are really stretching you enough.

Either way, try that statement again without the word just.

I’d love to know… Do the words ‘just’ or ‘only’ pop up when you talk – to others and to yourself?


27 Responses

  1. You’ve hit the nail on the head Belinda. It took me a while to figure out that every time I’d brush off myself as just a writer, my self confidence would plummet.

    It took a while but I no longer use “just” when describing myself as a writer.

    I also think the word “just” needs to disappear from our vocabularies. Even saying “I’m just trying” or “I’m just seeing how it goes” trivializes the whole thing. It’s like you’re preparing yourself for failure already.

    1. That’s funny Samar as I would have said, “Oh I’m not good enough to be a writer – I’m just a copywriter” … oh, how we present our self-doubt to the world!

      I absolutely agree with the idea that words like “just” are simply preparing for failure. It’s an excuse and I don’t like it! It’s all easier said than done I know but we have to try, right?

      Thanks for stopping in. Sounds like we’re on exactly the same page!

  2. We all love words, but we sometimes negate their import in our everyday conversation. Great post and a wonderful lesson.
    BTW, my least favorite word is “try”.

  3. Hi Belinda,
    Your post made me laugh as I ‘just’ had this conversation yesterday with a friend. ‘Just’ seems so innocuous but it’s more like ‘weak’ in disguise.

    A four-letter word that gets my blood curdling is ‘wait’. I see a lot of small business owners who ‘wait’ for their prospects to contact them rather than being proactive and following up.

    1. Innocuous words can be the most disruptive (in this case, not in a good way!)

      It’s an interesting point about not following up. I mean, if a business is so busy it can’t effectively handle new business they are better making sure customers who are ready get the attention and support they need. That said, if a business complains because they aren’t making sales and they don’t follow up on enquiries, well, they don’t deserve those customers.

  4. Thank you for this article – its brilliant! I thought it was ‘just’ me who is trying to fish out ‘justs’ from my emails… When I type quickly I put so many ‘justs’! And then I go back and delete them all.

  5. This is an interesting observation Belinda.

    I guess this has to do how you use narrative to tell yourself a story. For example, if you fail – you can tell yourself that it hurts a lot. Or you can tell that you now can work on the mistakes to increase your success.

    Similarly to seeing things differently, choosing different words have different impact.

    Thank you for sharing this idea. Stay Awesome.

  6. This is actually very clever writing. I never thought that four letter words can be this powerful, it actually affects our mentality in general. Thanks, Belinda for these wonderful thoughts.Cheers!

  7. Belinda, what a timely post this is.

    Been struggling quite a bit with that word.

    I didn’t know how much I ‘overused’ the word until I started using the Hemingway app, which flags it every time you use it.

    Now I am more conscious of how much the word weakens my writing. But it is so hard to eliminate it from all my writing.

    I want my writing to be more forceful and I know banishing that word will be a good start. I have (just) discovered your blog and believe you will help with that and a lot more.

    Thanks for sharing this

  8. OH, my goodness!

    No … I hadn’t used ‘just,’ before …
    … but now I can’t get it out of my brain!

    Must ignore, must ignore, must ignor :->

  9. I never thought about this but this is so spot-on. I mean, I use the word Just a lot and you are so right that it takes away so much power from what is written. Great lesson learned right here.

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