When I was younger, I watched a documentary about zoo keepers and how they train large wild animals. One thing that has always stuck with me is the story of how they raise baby elephants in captivity.
No, I haven't been watching too much Animal Planet, I promise I'm going somewhere with this.
As a baby, an elephant born in captivity is shackled by the ankle and chained to a large steel spike driven deep into the ground. The chain length is always the same and baby elephants don't yet have the weight or strength required to break free.
The young elephant will struggle against this tether every day in the yard until it learns that whenever a shackle is put around its ankle, it may only travel a particular distance.
Soon there's no struggle at all. It becomes accustomed to this "reality". Just seeing or feeling the shackle and chain is enough for the growing elephant to accept this limitation of its mobility as fact. The elephant's reality and subsequent actions have become a product of its environment.
As the elephant matures, zoo-keepers remove the heavy chains and replace them with a light rope and a movable wooden stake so they may show the elephant to crowds in multiple locations.
The fully grown adult elephant has more than enough power to pull free of the rope and peg but the programming of the ankle shackle is so absolute, so totally ingrained in its behaviour, that the elephant never bothers to try.
I find that sad.
For the past few months, my leg hasn't been fitting right. Not to worry, this is a normal part of the progression and they're building me a new one as we speak, but in the meantime, I've had a lot to put up with.
My old socket is HUGE on my leg, allowing my stump to bump and grind with each step. This causes me pain. I can generally fix that with a few extra socks for padding but throughout the day that changes, meaning more pain until I can get my "supplies" to sort it out.
Over the last few weeks, I've been limiting my walking and activities. I accepted the programming and allowed myself become fearful of standing and/or walking. I felt like my ill-fitting leg was a limitation that I couldn't control.
It's important to realize that most "limitations" are self-imposed. Sure, they have their foundations in past personal experience: a failed first attempt, a bad experience, a repeated put-down, etc, but for the most part, they are the product of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In my case, it was inconvenient to have to carry around extra supplies and to take the time needed to correct the problem so I wasn't taking care of the pain when it came on. Pain made me cranky. I stopped getting up because I knew it would hurt. I was even avoiding walking around at the office.
My limitation had nothing to do with my leg and everything to do with my attitude. I've since corrected my thinking and given myself a few good kicks to the head as punishment. Really I did -- it's easy when you have a detachable left leg!
We all have the power to change our situations rather than accept them. We need to recognize obstacles for their reality, not for what we perceive them to be.
Ask yourself: are you being held back by a bit of rope and a wooden peg?