Trying Not to Try: The Wild Mind Workings of a Recovering Perfectionist By Andrea Wachter, LMF

If you are someone who has struggled with eating and body image, there’s a good chance you have also struggled with perfectionism. If this is the case for you, you’re likely no stranger to the concept of trying.

Back in the days of my eating disorder, my trying looked something like this:

Trying to lose weight

Trying a new diet

Trying to recover from a binge

Trying to work out

Trying to work out more (Pull up a chair, this could take a while!)

Trying to improve my looks

Trying to get a boyfriend

Trying to look good

Trying to fit in

Trying to do well in school

Trying to be cool

Trying to be perfect


Next up were my early years in recovery:

Trying to listen to my body

Trying to eat intuitively

Trying to get it right

Trying to let go of being perfect

Trying to be perfect

Trying to be balanced

Trying to be healthy

Trying to be a good person

Trying not to beat myself up

Trying to get a career

Trying to get “likes”

Trying to let go of caring about “likes”

Trying to keep up with the daily grind

Trying to do the right thing

Trying to know what the right thing was

Trying to look good

Trying not to care how I looked


These days it’s more like:

Trying to let go

Trying to be more present

Trying to surrender

Trying to live in acceptance

Trying not to get injured

Trying to be kinder to myself

Trying to find my glasses

Trying to have a balanced life

Trying to be peaceful

Trying to welcome all emotions

Trying to age well

Trying to surrender to aging

Trying to practice gratitude

Trying not to lose my keys

Trying to practice mindfulness

Trying not to beat myself up

Trying not to try so hard (I told you this could take a while!)

Recently, while on a lovely walk in the redwood forest, (my personal place of worship), I started thinking about all this trying. How for as long as I can remember, I have been trying, and then more recently, trying not to try so hard. I’d set out to take a lovely, quiet walk and commune with nature, yet that day, my mind was as busy as ever. I decided to call order in the court.

Hey! Can we give it a rest? Can we just stop trying? Can we stop trying to stop trying? Can we admit that the only reason we ever try to get or get rid of anything is because we think we will feel better if we did? Can we cut out the middle man and just cut to the chase?

And then, perhaps being witnessed by the majestic trees, the swaying ferns and the glistening creek, or perhaps because I made a conscious decision to drop trying (the new stop, drop and roll), something inside me gave way. My little tryer said, “Uncle,” and I began to steer my mind to the breeze, my feet on the ground, my arms moving in time, my breathing, a bird song. Much like pointing a tantruming child back to something soothing in the present moment, I steered my busy mind back home, back to reality.

The promises of attainment, achievement and accomplishment will pop up again and again, I’m sure. Many of us have been raised on way too much Disney and happily-ever-afters. But I’m onto it now. I am onto my mind’s seductive nature. Our minds seduce us into thinking if we just got this fill-in-the-blank, we would be happy, but all we have to do is remember the last several hundred things we were convinced would bring us happy-ever-after-ness to see that it’s not the case. If it were, we would have just lived happily-ever-after.

So, if you struggle with a busy little tryer inside of you, see if you can reel it back in now and then. Notice the simplicity of the moment. Remind your mind that anything you acquire will have pro’s and con’s and ups and downs so there really is nowhere to get. This is the best news of all.

In any given moment, we all have a feast of temptations to take us away from this moment. And then we have this moment. Reality. Right here. Right now. We get to choose… fantasies and fears or that which is actually, factually here. This breath. This surface. This sensation. This sound. I’m willing to give it a whirl if you are.

Andrea Wachter

About Andrea Wachter

Andrea Wachter is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the author of Getting Over Overeating for Teens. She is also co-author of Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Breaking the “I Feel Fat” Spell and The Don’t Diet, Live-It Workbook. Andrea is an inspirational counselor, author and speaker who uses professional expertise, humor and personal recovery to help others.
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