We all do it. We all use this dirty, four-letter word every now and then. And now we need to stop. Because while it may seem harmless or insignificant, the word “just” is essentially a word that minimizes whatever follows it and is one of the worst 4 letter words we use regularly in our daily language.
More often than not, using “just” translates into you communicating, “I am inadequate and I don’t measure up to your expectations.” For example, one of the first questions we ask someone we meet at a party or meeting is, “What do you do?” The response might sound something like, “I am just a stay-at-home mom” or “I am just a Pilates instructor” or “I own a business, but it’s just something I run out of my house.” And if you really pay attention to it the responses that sneak in “just” are often made by women. It’s not often you hear a man diminish his career. Think about that one.
Imposing the seemingly innocuous word “just” not only devalues the decision you have rightfully made, but it also replays your internal dialogue that you are less than. You owe it to yourself to proudly own your decision and demonstrate gratitude for the opportunity to make that decision. And at the end of the day, your confidence level (regardless of your actual expertise, skill set, and experience) is almost always evident in the way you speak about yourself and the vocabulary you choose. No “just” required.
From a more personal perspective, inserting “just” can really brush aside the beauty and importance of our lives, our goals, and our accomplishments. How many times have you heard someone say, “I just ran the half.” JUST?! Well, running “just” the half means challenging your body to conquer 13 grueling miles, a major accomplishment deserved of celebration. Why devalue all the hard work and sacrifice you put into training? You don’t deserve to sell your accomplishments short. Don’t let “just” become an apology. Don’t let it be recognition of “I am not enough. I’m just half.”
So similar to the old adage: comparison is the thief of joy, similarly, insecurity is the haven of “just”. We are taught humility, which is often confused for self-doubt or lack of pride. But where does that actually get us? Sure, nobody wants to appear as a self-centered, boastful narcissist, but there is a happy medium. Insecurity might feel safer, but remember that insecurity is not humility…it is pride suppressed far away from the surface. And relying on this pattern over and over again is simply not healthy.
So try for a week to see how often you subconsciously use the word “just”… maybe it’s in an email where you sheepishly say “Just checking in to see where we are with the proposal” or maybe it’s inserted in a conversation when you respond “I just run a solo practice”…next time you feel the need or find yourself ready to minimize your reality, check your insecurity at the door. Because we are all whole…and our lives are worthy because of the choices we make, not in spite of them.
I will leave you to ponder more on the subject with one of my favorite quotes:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson