A reader asked:
… I think it’s more empowering to say “I decided to stop” than to say “I can’t”. It’s OK to stop when there’s still a tiny chance that you might have been able to succeed.
There are different reasons why people decide to stop doing things.
One reason is that they reach the conclusion that they probably aren’t capable of doing the thing. Probably
That’s different than reaching the conclusion that they don’t want to do it, or that it’s not worth doing, or that they’d rather do something else.
Actually this reminds me of something I’ve seen – often disabled kids who can’t do something will pretend that they’re refusing to do the thing. And that they’re refusing to do the thing on purpose in order to provoke the teachers. When everyone involved thinks that’s what’s happening, things can get really bad really quickly.
(Particularly if the thing is something like a kid going nonverbal and pretending that they’re refusing to speak and are just making animal noises to be rude).
Inability to do things is real, and it’s important for people to know their limits and take them seriously.
Acknowledging limits makes it much more possible to do things than pretending not to have any.
Ignoring reality isn’t empowering.
And it’s legitimate to say “I can’t” when what you mean is “it’s possible that I might technically be able to do it, but it’s risky and dangerous, and I couldn’t function if I took that kind of risk routinely”.
(This is in fact a meaning of “can’t” used by people without disabilities all the time.)