“I don’t know the answer, I’m just a temp.”
“I can’t authorize that refund, I’m just a cashier.”
“Clearly, nobody here cares what I think. I’m just a worker bee.”
“I could probably help those wounded veterans, but I’m just a private citizen. I’m sure there’s a government agency for that.”
“There’s no way I could ever do that job. I’m just a high school graduate.”
Listen closely, and you’ll hear the “I’m just a…” phrase applied in many circumstances. You may even use it yourself. I’ve inflicted it on myself a time or two (or three).
Ownership is risky. It requires personal responsibility, a willingness to step up, make hard choices, and be held accountable for your actions. “I’m just a…” is a ticket to minimizing the expectations we place on ourselves.
The Dark Side
“Just a…” has an even darker side. It can be used to limit the expectations we place on those around us:
- “John’s a decent manager, but he’s really just a guy keeping the trains coming in on time. I doubt he could step into anything new.”
- “She’s just a summer intern, so I don’t expect her to light the world on fire for us.”
- “He’s just a beginner, so we need to cut him some slack.”
- “She’s just a kid.”
- “He’s just a drug addict, so he will never amount to much.”
When expectations are minimized, minimized outcomes usually follow.
Applying the “just a…” phrase to anyone, including ourselves, ignores potential. It ignores our ability to grow, change, improve, and amaze.