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I have a confession. Sometime between childhood and adulthood I lost hold of really trying in certain areas of my life. I recently realized I use “not trying” as an excuse ALL THE TIME. It makes me feel better about myself. It gives me an excuse for not “being enough.” It makes failure a little more comfortable because, well, I didn’t really try. This pops up in almost every area of my life and I think it might be helpful for me to share some specifics while I process it.

Dressing: If I just “throw something on” instead of allowing myself to care about how I am presenting myself to the world (and myself). Yes, there are the days and even seasons where it’s not a priority. For example: Previously: the full year… and a half… after my second kiddos’ birth, and currently: gym and grocery Monday mornings. What I’m talking about is the times where I am standing in front of my closet . If I can say I am not involved with what I wear then I am not held responsible for looking sloppy or out of style. This protects me from standing out too much.

I secretly crave the bravery of trying something bright or new or maybe even trendy, but I use “not trying” as I give into the fear of looking weird or, *gasp* *back of hand to forehead* trying to hard. I recently had the privilege of hearing Toi Sweeney speak about how important the stories we tell ourselves are and how we present ourselves reflects what we believe about our lives. A few ideas Toi mentioned included starting from a place of hope and imagination. Instead of comparing yourself to some unrealistic ideal, could you be hopeful of growth in your life and imagine the best version of yourself? What if that was the starting point? My kids try the hardest when they believe something is possible. If they know something is impossible they don’t even try. Same for me! So in this area of my life, I really would like how I present myself to be purposeful, not just an afterthought… at least a few times a week!

What does this look like for me? It really is in the details. I am wearing a dress that I feel pretty in. I bought it in olive green on purpose because I like how my eyes look more green. AND I did a little knot in the front because I saw a bunch of pictures of people online looking cute knotting the bottom front of their dress. Maybe nobody else would notice but I felt intentional knotting the front- this is me trying. I fight against thoughts like “Maybe some people think the knot looks stupid, or maybe a different style of dress might be more flattering” but even so, I am choosing to ignore them and try; these are my baby steps. I have zero ambitions of being an online fashion mogul BUT I always love seeing pics so here you go!

Thanks to the random coffee shop people who took my picture today! haha! FYI writing this section reminded me of my 5 year old daughter who pays ZERO attention to what other people might think of what she is wearing. She knows what she likes and she feels pretty in what she likes. I have so much to learn from her!

Body image improvement: There are areas of my body I feel uncomfortable with, like the extra “jiggle in the middle” as my darling children so fondly describe. I started yoga about a year and a half ago, and have since added PiYo (combination of Pilates and yoga) and this last month started a boot camp. Pro tip I recently learned: Wear snug, high-waisted leggings for boot camp unless you want extra middle jiggle during the “extra fast jumping jacks” portion of class.

Despite working out, I often give myself a pass for indulging in my evening sweets addiction because “I’m not really trying.” The one helpful exercise is, ironically, not physical exercise. At the RISE conference we took a moment to visualize what we want to look like and be like in the future, what we would look like, what we would be doing, in 6 months, in a year, in 5 years, etc. In past times that I have done this in relationship to external things. I visualized goals like “get my degree, own a home, etc” but these were things around me, not my actual self. What do I want to look like? What is realistic? Does the middle jiggle really bother me or is it something I am ok living with? I say I want something but I’m not changing my behavior, so this is a point where I am learning to re-evaluate.

Saying I’m not trying protects me from the hard work it takes to change. It also protects me from the fear that I might not be able to change- what if I try and fail? What does it mean about myself or my body? I’m often more comfortable maintaining the status quo than mustering up the effort to try to change. After having 2 kids and my body weight fluctuating more than 65 pounds over the past 4 years a lot has changed. Only in the past year have I been able to take an honest look at my body and respond with grace and gratefulness instead of disgust and disappointment. Posting that head-to-toe picture of myself felt brave to me, but it wasn’t as hard as it would have been before. It is from this more loving place I am approaching body image improvement and exploring a new way to care for myself physically. Lovingly and gently I’m incorporating healthy changes so I can do those jumping jacks a little easier than before. I’ve been trying and it’s challenging. I don’t see any quick changes but I’m taking responsibility by admitting I’m actually trying.

Writing: “I didn’t really try hard on this piece of writing, I was just trying to get it done. It’s just the first draft, it would probably be a lot better if I actually tried.” I literally say this to someone every time I blog. People say things like “Oh, well it looks really good, it seems like you were trying” or “Wow, if you weren’t trying then you must be a natural.” Or I’ve had conversations where someone says “Yeah, I noticed you wrote more like you were talking than actually caring about grammar and stuff” -which is often true- but it also feels really nice to fall into the safety net of saying “Well, wasn’t really trying so that’s why the writing is a little sloppy.”

Now before you think I’m being to hard on myself, I realize I am doing the best with the time that I have. My purpose for the blog is to practice writing, get some concepts floating around in my head down onto paper (or at least channel them through my fingers onto a screen), and communicate what I’m learning with whoever decides to read. See? I am including a picture for proof. Also, that is an iced runt, a signature drink from a local coffee shop Nordaggios, where yours truly can often be found writing during preschool hours.

So I’m ok with this level of trying for the blog- yes, there are levels of trying. Just getting the writing for the blog and publishing it is “trying” to some extent. So yes to all of this, but where I feel the pressure is in the book I’m writing. I really want it to be good. In the back of my mind I have this thought- “What if I try and it isn’t really good? What if it is horrible?” Then I think, maybe if I write without really trying I can put some distance between myself and the writing. If it happens to be really good on the first draft (my unrealistic equivalent of not really trying) then that will make me look great, but what if I revise, revise, revise, and there is nothing salvageable? What if I try and I fail?

Again my kids are an inspiration- my 3 year old loves to run but is still very much in the stage of random and often falling down! He was dancing his heart out, slipped, then got up and started dancing again. He doesn’t let his “failure” to stay upright stop him from dancing his heart out. Why do we? If you don’t have the cheering squad my son does, then look for people who will give you the reassurance and support you need. And please, please, practice being your own support team. Don’t let your own voice in your head be the one that keeps you down. Choose to listen to the part of your heart that longs to dance and don’t let anything stop you.

Have you ever done something or even wanted to do something but were afraid to put your heart and soul into it for fear of failure? For me, failure means I write something and people think it’s horrible. Not trying protects me from judgment but it also prevents me from creating. Same for you too. When we separate ourselves from whatever are creating it is devalues our story, a self-fulfilling prophecy revealing what we believe we are worth. When you don’t try the world misses out on what you have to offer. I’m recognizing this and re-writing my story by writing a story. I’m doing it. I’m over 6,000 words in and it’s going slow. The other week both kids had a rough cough and I was in survival mode, but still, word by word I’m writing. I am writing and revising and trying my best to clearly communicate through the words and the stories.

Rest is necessary and healthy. Discovering your aptitudes and passions is also important. But trying is the only way you can move forward from where you are now to where you want to go, from who you are now to who you want to be. I truly believe we are created with a huge capacity for growth and development if we allow ourselves to try. We don’t (and shouldn’t) have to try at everything, but if you take a look at your life and find that you are using the excuse “I’m not really trying” in almost every area then I would encourage you to pick something, either familiar or new, to start “actually trying” this week. It doesn’t have to be writing. It could be learning how to perfect your coffee brewing skills. It could be reading a book on a topic that you have been interested in for a long time but haven’t done anything to explore it yet. How about learning how to make a gourmet meal you always wanted to try. Or maybe look up how to arrange the living room furniture so everything flows better. It could be looking up a video on how to teach yourself guitar.

At the very least you could take a cool picture triumphantly holding up a guitar like this guy.It could be anything, but choose something. You can always change your mind if it doesn’t work out. Don’t let it stop you from trying. I would love to hear from you if you did, or if you feel stuck and think an external perspective might help.

You were created to grow and develop so go for it! I give you permission. Better yet, give yourself permission to try.