Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Trying too hard

I want to talk about trying too hard, whatever that means to you. You might be a new mother trying hard to be all things; mother, wife, friend, daughter. You might be a working mother trying too hard to please your boss and your children. You might be the new girl or boy at work trying too hard to fit in. You might be the person on Twitter who doesn't find Twitter comes naturally but desperately tries to be part of it. You might be trying too hard to force an idea to come before it's ready. You might even be trying too hard to make a person like you, either as a friend or otherwise. Or trying too hard to work out what your horoscopes mean when they say "an old fling might turn up." FYI - they mean STOP READING THEM.

You might be none of those things. 

But whatever it is that you are trying too hard to do. Stop it. Just stop. 

The definition of the very word itself comes loaded with a negative. Of course to try and achieve something is a good thing, right? Well lets look at it another way: to be tried either legally or in the sense of finding an effort trying, is to be put upon. So therefore when we try to do something are we putting upon ourselves an expectation or perimeter or weight? Because it seems to me that whenever I try to do anything I fail. But when I simply do something I always, always succeed.

If I write some words of the novel I am trying to draw out of myself, I have written some words. Words that will change a million times over but words that create the base for a story that will be drawn from them. But if I try and write a novel then the weight of the entire undertaking is too heavy to carry and I end up useless at my laptop. If I tweet what I want to tweet and not try to tweet things that other people might find entertaining then I have entertained myself and expressed myself. If I like myself instead of trying to make others like me then I have made a very important friend for life rather than a friend who had to be convinced I was likeable. And if I assert my ideas at work rather than try to guess what my client wants me to produce, I will be far more likely to have success. 

Recently I quit sugar, genuinely. I know! I did what the blog title said I was doing. What was the difference this time as to the last time? I simply did it. I didn't try to do it. I just did it. And the difference between the words "try to do it" and "do it" is success. It was helped, I will grant you, by the fact that I had secured a commission on the basis that I would quit sugar for a month. So I have quit sugar for a month. Except, I am currently in week six and still no sugar.  

Earlier this year I quit alcohol. Again, I didn't try to, I did it. I decided that I wanted to and I told everyone that I had quit. Not that I was trying to quit. By being firm with this description, everyone, including myself, took me seriously. No one tried to coerce me to drink. But whenever I have "tried to do dry January" I have failed by week two. I didn't say I was quitting forever but that I was quitting for now and that I wanted to get a better relationship with alcohol. So too sugar. I have also been careful to do one thing at a time. I would like to do lots of things but one thing at a time. Do one thing properly before tackling another. 

But lately I have noticed the try word creep into my vocabulary. It started when I noticed that someone I really admire on Twitter, someone I met at a blogging course, didn't reply to two of my tweets and then unfollowed me. I was so hurt. This woman writes about feeling unworthy and "lesser" than and with the unfollow button she made me feel less than. What had I done wrong? Had I offended her? Was I simply awful? Do I present myself badly online? And so I stopped tweeting. I stopped looking at Twitter. And every time I dipped my toe back in I felt inadequate and useless. If I tweeted someone I felt stupid for trying too hard immediately afterwards. Why? Because I was trying to work out why this woman didn't like me. A woman I don't know, who doesn't know me, who could have a multitude of reasons for unfollowing me that I will never know. A multitude of reasons that have nothing to do with me. Because whatever she has decided about me is not a reality. She doesn't and cannot know me. 

But I had desperately wanted to be her friend. She lives near me and we work in the same industry. I tried to be her friend. And by trying I failed. Because you can't try to be someones friend. You can be someones friend but it doesn't happen by force of will. It comes by genuine interchange and connection. And I was jumping forward. I might not even bloody like this woman in real life. But I allowed that little, insignificant rejection to affect me for weeks. 

The same way that every time I write something for the novel that doesn't work because I am trying to write something bigger than just the start, I fail. The same way that the mother who tries too hard to please her child forgets to please herself and fails them both. The same way the woman returning from maternity leave tries to pretend having a child waiting at home hasn't changed her perspective. The same way the athlete who went to the Olympics to try to win a gold finds the word that allows a get out clause is the comfort they use later, "I tried my best". Why try to do your best. Do your best, if your best is silver, or just outside the medals then take your best and be proud of it. 

Lets just stop trying to be or do or say things and actually be and do and say. We're all so much better when we stop trying. 

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