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When Trying Harder Doesn’t Work

How many times have you heard it? “Just try harder!” It’s only three little words, but wow are they loaded! Sometimes, that’s a good thing. There are times that we need the gentle nudge to come alongside of us and encourage our forward progress. Hey, sometimes we even need a full on kick in the butt to motivate us to use the strength that is lying dormant within us. 

“Just try harder!” Sometimes that’s all we need because there are a LOT of times in life that we are much stronger than we think, but we’ve become comfortably numb in a place far below our potential.

But that’s not always the case, is it. How many times have we ‘tried harder’ and failed just as miserably, or even more so, than the previous attempts. How many times have you promised yourself that this time was going to be different because you were going to try even harder than you did the last time? I, for one, will admit that it’s a lot more than I’d like to admit.

Trying harder works great when we have the inherent strength for the task, but let’s be honest, just like we all have unique strengths, we all have unique weaknesses also, and trying harder does NOT work when we call upon a strength that we do not possess. It just causes us to fail with more flair.

The ugly side of trying harder.

This is where I’d love to use the example of someone else’s failure, unfortunately one of my own failures is the best illustration I have at the moment.

I had “tried” several diets and weight loss attempts through the years.  All of which left me gaining more weigh than I started with and feeling like a complete failure.  Each new diet, I’d say to myself, “This time I’ll just try harder!”  Trying harder wasn’t the answer.  There was something missing.  I knew how and what I should eat.  I knew I needed to be exercising, so what was keeping me from being consistent?  It wasn’t a lack of trying or needed to try harder.

When I got engaged, I said those three little words to myself again: Just Try Harder!  You’d think a wedding dress and a honeymoon to Maui would be motivation to “try harder.”  Life happened!  I was fired from a job that was very stressful, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and died 2 weeks before my wedding, and I didn’t have the tools at my disposal to deal with my stress and my emotions.

I’ve always been an emotional eater, so of course, I turned to food.  It wasn’t about trying harder.  I didn’t have the tools I needed to find another way to cope.  I didn’t have the strategies I needed to deal with the mindset part of weight loss.  It had nothing to do with “just try harder.”

The Voice of Our Shame

How many times in life have we tried at something that comes easily for so many people – something just like riding a bike. It seems as though everyone does it without any effort, but we try and try and try, harder every time, but it just never works, and the entire time we hear the shame and guilt inducing voices of the dads and friends and coworkers and family and society who keep telling us over and over again that we are somehow defective and simply need to try harder. 

Thus begins the cycle of unrealistic hopes that breed more shame and more guilt with each new failure until eventually we just quit hoping because the shame of failing again is too much to bare.

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