I Give Up: When Trying Your Hardest Doesn’t Feel Like Enough

Michelle Overman, LMFT
September 18, 2018

Have you tried incredibly hard at something, yet nothing seems to come of it? I’m sure most of us have suffered this indignity. Perhaps you’ve seen the TV show The Middle. It just wrapped its 9th and final season this past May on ABC. The show is about a blue collar family living in a small Indiana town. There are three children, but the one I want to focus on is the middle child, a daughter named Sue. I love Sue. She is the poster child for the kid who tries out for everything under the sun, but doesn’t ever make the cut. While it’s a running joke on the show, Sue never gives up. She always picks herself up, dusts herself off, and finds the next challenge. Not only is she hilarious, but she also embodies what it means to literally never give up.

never give up

While it may be easy for a fictional character to remain relentless, in reality, trying time and time again only to meet failure and disappointment is exhausting. Failing is painful. It can feel easier to fail after a half-hearted effort than to fail after giving your all. Trying your hardest means you care about something. Caring about something means that if you don’t succeed, the hurt is deeper. How many times have we avoided something because we are afraid of failing? Most of us, I’m sure.

Even though relentless optimism is difficult, we all need to be a little like Sue, to get up off the mat and keep going. But how do you do that?

Re-write your narrative to be positive, not negative. A narrative is the meaning we create around certain situations. After trying and failing repeatedly, it’s easy for the narrative to become something like, “I’m not good enough,” or “I’ll never make it.” When you rewrite the narrative, you gain a better message to focus on and a less painful meaning to ruminate on. A new narrative might be something like, “Even though I’ve fallen many times, I still get up. I won’t be down for long. I am resilient.” Your new narrative can provide difficult moments meaning that keeps you going even when the going is tough.

Acknowledge and comfort the part of you that wants to give up. Don’t ignore the part that’s afraid or wants to give up. Fear of failure is very real and valid given the situation. Confronting the fear validates your feelings. Ignoring how we feel can create other problems and other anxieties beneath the surface. Acknowledging weakness can be the first step in moving forward.

Rediscover your passion for your goals. Remember what is important to you and why you were working towards your goals to begin with. Find the passion again by going back to the beginning. Does it still mean the same to us now? We can remind ourselves of what we love and why we love it. Passion is an incredible motivator.

Find someone, anyone, and anything to be a part of your motivation. While this statement isn’t literal (because it still needs to be a healthy motivation), it can help to find motivation. Find it through passion, accountability, setting small goals, or a new purpose. Think, “What is it that keeps me going?”

While it’s not easy, we can overcome our fears and the part of us that wants to give up. We can show our resilience and keep moving forward.

Michelle Overman, LMFT

Michelle is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families.