Don’t Try So Hard; Just Enjoy Yourself

Don't try so hard; just enjoy yourself

My husband doesn’t actually like movies but sometimes I convince him to watch with me, snuggled together in bed or on the couch. He likes the snuggling part. I try to choose movies that might pique his interest; this generally involves a story related to sports. And while I don’t actually like sports, I do love watching the evolution of a character. A good character-driven plot.

My husband grew up in West Africa without toys or books or craft supplies – all the things we deem necessary to raising healthy, happy kids where we live. He would spend hours playing alone, creating imaginary soccer matches using little ceramic tiles for players. Moving them around, calling the plays, losing himself in the game. And like many little boys around the world, I imagine, he knew the name Pelé by heart.

So a few weeks ago, we snuggled in to watch Pelé: Birth of a legend, on Netflix. I’d been struggling with anxiety and weariness and needed to just shut off my brain and get lost in someone else’s story for a while. I find story so powerful – powerful in its ability to heal and encourage, to provoke and call to bravery.

About a third of the way into the movie, a young Pelé (Edson Arantes do Nascimento) is practicing his skill with his dad, juggling papayas off his chest, knees, and feet. He’s stressed and sad, having recently lost a dear friend. And his dad says to him, “don’t try so hard; just enjoy yourself.”

That one line spoke straight to my soul, piercing deep between joint and marrow.

That one line spoke to all my weariness and the pressure I put on myself to make stuff happen. My fears of never really growing up fully into the woman I want to be, my mostly unconscious concerns about how I will prove my worth. As though I must pay rent for the space I take up in this world.

Don’t try so hard; just enjoy yourself.

If my husband hadn’t been watching with me I’d have rewound that part over and over again to make sure I got it. That I heard what I needed to hear before moving on.

But I heard.

I heard that I struggle to rest. That since I was a little girl I never quite believed I was good enough. I always felt I didn’t quite have what it takes. I heard that I am often so serious and rarely let down my guard; sometimes I feel so achy with the need to laugh, let go, and just enjoy myself. I heard a call to freedom.

I took a deep breath and exhaled.

The path to freedom is littered with stumbling blocks. Deep creeks to cross, thorny branches to push through. People who wish us harm, our minds play tricks on us. We need each other.

We need a safe space to rest and receive nourishment. Bandages, soup offered, no strings attached. A place to lay our heads awhile until we are ready and strengthened to get back up and continue the trek, Northbound.

We don’t need to preach or have all the answers or know how it will all work out in the end. We can just show up. We don’t need a fancy home to welcome a stranger; we just need to keep a light on. We only need a willingness to reach out and lift up one weary traveler at a time. Or to open ourselves up to help when we are the one who is hungry and parched.

Our neediness is not shameful.

There are seasons that it is hard to see light or to pick up joy. But mostly, I think, mostly joy is a choice. And rest is a choice. And deciding to enjoy yourself (myself) is a choice. I forget often but I acknowledge that it is my choice.

For the past few weeks, since watching Pelé’s story, his father’s advice reverberates loudly in my heart and mind. I can’t shake it, I don’t actually want to, and I know that it was the answer to a whispered prayer. Manna gathered up, hungrily, precisely when I needed it.

It seems I have adopted a new mantra for the coming year and I wonder if it calls to any of you.

Don’t try so hard; just enjoy yourself.

Krista xo

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27 comments on “Don’t Try So Hard; Just Enjoy Yourself

  1. oh my goodness, yes! I need to learn that lesson too, always striving, earnestly trying, when if I just relaxed and enjoyed the process I would enjoy myself instead of feeling ‘purposeful’. It didn’t do Pele any harm 😉

  2. Yes a good mantra and well presented. Thank you for the article. I have enjoyed my life so much more since I adopted this into my life some years back. Thank you for reminding me, life was getting a little tough and the reminder is just at a perfect time! 🙂

  3. Krista, there are so many times after reading your post I have wanted to reply but knew it would be too lengthy. When you write, my soul hears you and brings me comfort. “Don’t try so heard; just enjoy yourself” – I needed to hear this today. Fighting so many battles right now and the worst part is I, for some unknown reason, think I can fix it if I try hard enough. I will hold onto today’s message. Thank you for sharing your life experiences and if you don’t hear it enough, you are loved and appreciated. You are a beautiful child of God.

  4. Thank you for this post today. I feel exhausted and overwhelmed trying to create the life that I want, that I can’t enjoy the life that I have. I worry about the example I set for my kids, and how they will remember their mom. I want to feel vibrant, joyful and inspired by my life instead of downtrodden. I take action, experiment, strive, learn and grow and still have not found my peace. My mantra this year has been “where you are is where you need to be” but its a struggle to be still. Thank you for this reminder and for modelling the good life.

  5. Krista….I really needed that today of all days. I’m not enjoying myself. Signed up for huge supper for tomorrow, and stressing out terribly with it! I love to cook, and have no problem doing it, but….I’m not enjoying it this time. Relax, breathe, and enjoy what you volunteered to do Angela!!!

  6. “As though I must pay rent for the space I take up in the world.” I think I’ve been living with that thought in my head since I was a child. This way you expressed the feeling of not being “good enough” made me realize I have a ways to go in this recovery business.

  7. This message–don’t try so hard; just enjoy yourself–and your insights about it were exactly what I need right now. I am starting a new project that brings up all my anxieties and feelings of inadequacy. Instead of being overwhelmed or trying to prove myself, I am going to try to just enjoy it. I’m so glad that you found comfort in this, and shared it. As always, thank you so much for your words and wisdom and bravery.

  8. Just enjoy being a Mom, don’t try so hard. I think I spend about 95% of my time worrying about my children and the rest enjoying them. Oh dear, what a waste.

  9. I absolutely love this! “Don’t try so hard; just enjoy yourself” is my new mantra. It takes off all the pressure to succeed, be liked, etc and allows you to instead succeed and be liked for who you really are, which requires no striving. <3

    • And can be way more fun! I notice in my work (which I love) that when striving creeps in, anxiety spikes and I start feeling like “I have to do things”. But when I decide to just enjoy the process I take joy in my work, release pressure to make things happen, etc. Such a different mindset and result.

  10. “That one line spoke to all my weariness and the pressure I put on myself to make stuff happen. My fears of never really growing up fully into the woman I want to be, my mostly unconscious concerns about how I will prove my worth. As though I must pay rent for the space I take up in this world.”
    After spending an hour trying to put into words my internal struggles to my partner, I log on and read this post and there it is. Clearly written, words taken straight from my insides. Thank you for this. I can’t begin to tell you how much it means to me to see this is a common struggle, shared by many.

  11. Your words continue to speak to my heart. I regularly tag my daughter who struggles with many of the same issues. Keep sharing your insight and wonderful messages. You are such a blessing.

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