While attending a presentation of educational scholarships for deserving women at a local women’s center where I volunteer, it struck me that each of the several dozen women who had received scholarships had nearly the same thing to say: that though life had been very hard, they had never given up hope that they would make a better one for themselves. Hearing them, I got to thinking about how dysregulated eaters sometimes fall into victimization, helplessness and despair and how ready so many of you are to give up on becoming “normal” eaters.

One young woman from Afghanistan left her large family and, on her own, traveled to the US where she was given an “adopted” mother to live with. How many of us can imagine what it would be like to come to a strange country where we didn’t speak the language, leaving our family behind in a war-torn country? But this woman set her sights on getting an education and did well enough to receive a scholarship.

Not one, but several of the women spoke of raising children—one woman had five—and working during the day while going to school at night. They spoke of what a difficult road they’d traveled, and how they couldn’t allow themselves time to complain about it or they wouldn’t have been in their second, third or fourth years of college. Instead, they talked about the support they’d received from friends, relatives, and the women’s center. They stressed that the key to their success was not going it alone. Yet I often hear, “I hate to ask for help,” “I’d rather do it alone,” or “People don’t help me.” The problem is that without support, it is more difficult, if not impossible, to succeed.

One woman at the presentation talked about raising two children on her own, then getting into and out of three emotionally abusive relationships. She struggled to get out of those relationships, was terrified to be on her own, and was unsure that she’d be able to enroll in school and do well. But that is exactly what she did. At one time she had thought of herself as a victim, but she had to shake off that self-label to prove that she had power and determination. She succeeded because she (mostly) thought she could.

The worst thing any of you can do is to tell yourselves that you can’t do something. That is what holds you back, your belief that you’re defective or undeserving or can’t make it because of your history. One reason you aren’t reaching your goals is that you don’t have the mindset that nothing will stand in your way. You’ll gain confidence as you inch along. Ditch the word “can’t” and you won’t believe what you can accomplish.