How To Lose Your Big But

In the 1985 movie Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Simone tells Pee Wee Herman about her dreams of living in Paris. She finishes her story with, “…but, “ and then tells him that Andy, her controlling boyfriend, will never let her go. Pee Wee responds with the classic line, “Everyone I know has a big but.”

Pee Wee makes a good point.

I was reminded of this recently during a career coaching session. My client and I were working on aligning him towards his ideal job, and throughout the conversation he kept saying, “…but I don’t think I can do (this) or (that),” or, “…but they probably won’t hire me because…” As our session progressed, I watched his but get bigger and bigger. As his doubts increased, so did his but.

So what’s up with the big but? Why the doubt? And where do our big buts come from?

In his book, The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, Dr. Christopher Germer states, “We have evolved for survival, not happiness, and thus have a natural tendency to focus on the negative.” Considering that our brains are naturally hardwired for problem solving, sticking our but into everything comes naturally.

Having a pragmatic disposition is common practice and we may find tremendous value in examining multiple perspectives on any issue. This is all fine and dandy until our but gets too big — then it just slows us down. When doubt and pessimism become our default setting, we end up dragging our buts wherever we go.

• Protecting a belief system (covering our but)
• Avoiding disappointment (saving our but)
• Fear of re-occurrence (but it happened before…)
• Bad habits (unaware that we’re being a but head)

So how do we lose our but? We don’t — completely. However, we can reduce our but size.

• Reduce doubt by trusting the process
• Release the need to control outcomes
• Change our default setting to optimistic
• Do what we can and then let it go (learn from Elsa)

Finally, we can pay attention to feedback from others. Try having friends or coworkers call you out on your but. And the next time you’re feeling doubt, you can ask them, “Does my but look big to you? Really, you can tell me. I trust you.”

Need some inspiration? Looking for tips to reduce your but size faster? Then pick up a copy of Balancing Work, Relationships & Life in Three Simple Steps, or another book in Michael’s collection. You can also subscribe to Michael’s Balance Bits by visiting his Contact page.

Image: My Big Sis and her not-so-big but

Originally published at on September 13, 2016.