Lose the Crutches

Being on crutches is limiting.

I have physically been on crutches several times in my life. Torn ligaments in my ankle. Knee surgery. I was surely limited in what I could do. And frustrated. But I have realized that my mental crutches have been far more crippling to me and the people in my life, than the physical ones. What the helk is a mental crutch? I will define them as, something we use as an excuse for our negative behaviors or beliefs that are limiting our potential, damaging our relationships or keeping us stagnant in our evolution. We use them as a crutch when justifying our lack of empathy, poor behavior, or for not being smart enough, worthy of love, or able to get the promotion we want.  Most, if not all of us have them. Unfortunately, I have found in my work that most of us don’t recognize them in the context of my above definition. How do they develop?

I was watching an episode of Blue Bloods a few months ago that may help us understand how these crutches come about.  One of the detectives was working on the “cold case” of his own mother’s murder.  Unfortunately, he uncovered that it was his father who murdered his mother.  At the very end of the show he was sitting on a bench next to one of his fellow detectives and said, “Now I know the truth of who I am…just a son of a murderer.”  I looked over at my wife and said, “This is the sort of thing that happens to so many of us and the actions that follow such beliefs can be crippling.”

How would this detective advance his career in law enforcement walking around with such a mental crutch?  Would he feel deserving to be loved and in a solid relationship knowing his father murdered his mother?

And, will he ever realize the truth of who he is?  Or, can be?

I spent many years holding on to many crutches.  And yes, I used them as excuses for bad, self defeating behavior.  One of the more prevalent crutches I used was that I was adopted.  I had heard and read that many adopted children suffer from a lack of identity and sense of belonging…very insecure.  At one point all of this was true for me and the behaviors I exhibited were anger and defensiveness that stemmed from insecure and non trusting language.  But, I would always rely on my crutch of “But I was adopted and you don’t understand”, to excuse my behavior.

Then, when I was told that I was conceived through a gang rape I thought I had surely found the answer to why I felt so internally desolate and acted in such self defeating ways.  No wonder I felt screwed up and was transferrring my pain instead of transforming it?  I, at the time, actually thought I had a stronger case to justify my limiting beliefs and behaviors.  An excuse.  A mental crutch.  Things got worse until I realized how wrong my justifications were.

I will never forget the day this started to shift for me.  I went to talk to a psychologist about all of this.  I opened up by telling her the basics of the above and she responded something like, “I have read several books about cases like this.”  Cases like this?  Read books?  I was furious. It was so impersonal.  I am not a case study, I thought.  I walked out. Not long after this encounter I realized that my conception and the crutches I associated with my adoption were self imposed and had nothing to do with the man that I was or that I wanted to be.  I had to ask myself, “What if you never were told this about your conception?  Would it ever have affected you like this.”  The answer is no.  And thus, I began to realize that the things I was allowing to define me and affect my behavior were not worthy of such energy.

In my line of work I am often trying to get people off these mental crutches.  Let me illustrate a few relatable ones.

One of my clients worked for years under someone who did not allow new ideas, was degrading, and a micromanager.  This person was miserable.  I used to say to him “If your dinner conversations at home are more about your unhappiness at work than anything else, it’s time to leave.”  Eventually I was able to coach him out of the situation.  He landed at a great compnay that has excellent leaders.  He failed.

Why?  He remained silenced.  Didn’t offer up his ideas.  He carried his insecurites on his sleeve and often acted defensive.  When asked why, he would simply say “Because this is all I know from my last job.”  He knew more but was relying on this past expereince as a crutch.  Sound familiar.  Sort of like the adult that says their 5th grade teacher told them they were stupid in front of the entire class and now, still today, view themselves as stupid….and their “playing small” behaviors follow suit.

Or, how about the person who says they do not know how to love or be in a marriage because their parents are divorced.  They treat their spouse like crap.  Distrust them.  Ignore their physical and emotional needs.  When asked why, they say, “Because my parents are divorced.”

If we slowed down and viewed these with a little more logic I think we would see that they don’t make a whole lot of sense.  Why would we allow a comment from a 5th grade teacher to speak louder than the degrees we obtained or the fact that we have a good job?

Have you ever turned the TV on on a Sunday morning and seen one of these shows where people with injuries are healed by a preacher?  So, picture a guy or gal walking up to the preacher on crutches, getting a little smack in the forehead that is followed up with a “You are healed!”  They drop the crutches and walk away.

I never have been able to buy into that stuff.  But, I will tell you that you could begin to let go of your mental crutches in just about the same amount of time.  Just start to realize that these experiences, while a part of your story and once very painful, do not have to be so limiting.  They do not have to define you in a negative way. They should not make you feel insecure, play small, or treat others as you would not want to be treated.  Actually they can do just the opposite.

Flip the script on the way you view these crutches as step number one (Remember the list of 5 worse things and 5 best things that have ever happened to you…similar thought process).  Then jump off the cliff and actually do something worthy of who you really are.  Allow someone to compliment you without deflecting it.  Trust someone. Apply for the promotion.  Understand that you learned what not to do in a marriage when your parents got divorced which could be as valuable as what to do.  Give Yourself a Gift Today.

I think you will find a much softer landing than you imagined.

I have to end by wishing my Dad, Happy Birthday (Today)!  For many years losing him was my biggest crutch.  It stopped my career in it’s tracks, wreaked havoc on my relationship and delayed my becoming a father.  Today, on my Father’s Birthday, I post this message knowing I no longer use his death as a crutch.  As a matter of fact, I now do not simply try to walk in his light, I shine my own.  I can’t imagine I could give him a more meaningful gift than that.

Lose the crutches people.  If you need a little push, I’d be glad to give it.  You have my contact info 🙂

Stay True,




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