Not gonna lie, I’ve got quite a few favorite four-letter words. However, there is one that is definitely my least favorite:
This word drives me nuts for two reasons. First, we often use it to minimize our own needs, ideas, or accomplishments.
I just need a minute.
It was just an idea.
It's not really a big deal, it was just something I did.
These sentences slip out of our own mouths and out of the mouths of those around us all the time, and we rarely stop long enough to think about the impact of wording them this way. While I understand the desire to be polite or humble, when it comes to achieving our own personal and professional goals, we have to be ultimately self-interested. Using the word just can minimize the importance of what we are saying, and that’s a surefire way to constrain our own progress. It can signal to others that we don’t take ourselves seriously, so why should they? Instead of ideas that merit full consideration, our proposals become mere suggestions that may or may not be worthy of further investigation. Achievements we have worked hard for and earned are minimized, leaving us without the full recognition and celebration of a job well done and a reputation strengthened by our successes.
Getting rid of the word just in our vocabulary doesn’t mean we have license to be a jerk to those around us or to achieve our own desires at the cost of the well-being of other people. It does mean we start owning our awesomeness and celebrating our successes. It also means we are upfront about what we need and how we feel, unapologetic and unafraid to share our ideas and give what we know to be valuable input.
The other reason I don’t like the word just is that we often use it to just-ify our own bad behavior.
I’m just a planner.
I’m just really laid back.
I’m just more comfortable this way.
I just want to have all my ducks in a row before I do anything.
When we use the word just in reference to our own behavior (or in reference to someone else’s), use it as a cue to look a little deeper and see if you’re actually using it as an excuse to just-ify bad behavior. I recently realized I was using this word in reference to myself. I found myself telling my partner, friends, and family, “I just like to have some predictability. I just want to know what to prepare for.” On the surface, neither of those are bad things! However, dig a little deeper, and I realized I was hiding behind these to just-ify some of my own bad behaviors: being a control freak, letting my anxiety run away with me over situations that required more flexibility, nagging… I could go on and on!
As I spent some time reflecting on the word just, I realized I needed to prioritize my own needs more instead of letting my time trickle away from me by giving “just a few minutes” here and there to projects and people that weren’t helping me move forward. I also came to the realization that I am much more flexible than I give myself credit for! Sure, my preferred state may be all about predictability and planning. However, when that is in short supply (and truthfully, when isn’t it?), instead I focus on all the ways I can choose to hold things loosely and be flexible instead.
Just can be a powerful indicator for areas of self-work. Use it as a cue to examine ways you may be undercutting yourself by using the word just.
Nicole Lance is a women’s leadership development expert, facilitator, executive coach, speaker, strategic planner, and promoter of self-care. She is passionately committed to helping organizations and individuals succeed in reaching - and reaching beyond - their goals.