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Giving Yourself Credit for Trying - it's Worth More than the Results!

Gimmie a break, gimmie a break, break me off a piece of that... copyrighted song!” That’s right, this week we are going to talk about giving yourself a break! Not a break literally, although no one can fault you for it, but letting yourself off the hook. You see, in this world we all live in, we place such a premium on winning, on success, on results, that we’ve forgotten that just trying, simply putting in the effort, is worthy of recognition.

You will fail, and that's OK

In my videos, I talk a lot about the fact that “you’re going to fail, and that’s OK.” It’s true, and when you have an illness like lymphoma, there are ample opportunities to fail. I had several epic fails when I was going through the worst of it. One of them happened to be a marriage – though in hindsight I’m not sure how much of an “epic” fail that was. Maybe more of a “moderately lucky” bad day or a “slightly uncomfortable fortnight” (not with a bang but a whimper), but that’s a whole other post. Either way, I had more than my share of unsuccessful attempts, and sometimes, it was devastating. Because of these wonderful failures, though, I had to learn to accept that just trying was its own kind of win, and effort should always be acknowledged.

I was recently talking to a mom who had cancer with a huge side helping of autoimmune illnesses, and she was beside herself. This mom was distressed over the fact that she wasn’t able to give her kids the same lifestyle that the other moms in her social circle gave their kids. The fatigue, the doctor’s appointments, the money spent on her medical bills – she felt all of those things were taking away from her children’s well-being. It didn’t help that friends in her social circle were pretty much a horror show – a scene right out of Mean Girls come to life, totes judgies – you get the idea. Shockingly, they hadn’t softened up much since high school, and this mom felt she was frequently the topic of gossip, and frankly, she probably was. Not because she deserved it, but because bringing normal orange slices for a snack instead of organic free-trade tangerines grown in a socially responsible farming collective is totally worth snack-shaming a mother with cancer.

This mom was running herself into the ground trying to live up to three Stepford Wives whose social media was filled with perfect little family pics that would make Ralph Lauren himself vomit with jealousy (nevermind that dad is eyeing the nanny who is just outside the perfect crop). I told her, unequivocally, that she had to give herself a break, and that she gets credit for trying.

Effort matters

The amount of effort someone who has cancer puts forth just trying to do one day’s worth of things that “healthy” people take for granted is sheepishly unknown by most. It may even require all of the energy a cancer patient has for the entire week. If you are just living for yourself, that’s still a herculean task, but if you are a parent or caretaker, it’s a task of monumental proportions and sometimes there just is no saying, “I can’t do it.” You have to do, you have to keep going – and just like any parent, you’d rather take the pain onto yourself then deprive your kids or your charge.

So, this mom to whom I was speaking was using up three times the amount of effort every single day just trying to give her children the life that their friends were enjoying, and that is, simply put, in and of itself, incredible and worthy of high praise. Why? Because effort matters, just getting up and trying, not because you want to, or because it’s easy, but because you don’t know any other way to be, is deserving of commendation and we need to start acting like it. Sure, this person won’t ever be able to do the things a “healthy” mom will, but does that make her a worse parent? I’d argue putting in three times the effort to do almost as much as someone else would show, without a doubt, that the person who put in more effort but didn’t quite make it is the person who deserves the accolades.

You are not the sum of your wins

When we were done speaking, this person did feel a bit better, but being a parent means you always feel bad when you can’t give your kids something no matter how valid the reason. I get it, but as I told her, the importance of stopping to recognize the amount of effort you put in every day as a cancer patient can not be understated. You are not “less than” because you forgot to buy tickets online until dinner when those Taylor Swift tickets were already sold out. Guess what - the fact that you remembered to do it at all after a day that started with chemo and ended with driving a carpool of post-soccer-win screaming kids home from an away game is incredible, and if no one else will I’m here to give you full credit for trying. Check plus, happy face, pumpkin sticker.

Look, this is good advice for life in general, but it’s much more important for people like us with cancer. We need to stop placing such a premium on the win, on results, and return to a time when the effort put in, the trying, gets recognized. If you didn’t do anything but lay in bed today after trying your damndest to clean up a little, then so be it, you tried! Especially when you are fighting myeloma, lymphoma, leukemia, or whatever cancer you battle, you are not the sum of your wins! If you fail, that just means you tried, and that’s the important part of this equation – the effort. Anyone can find a way to cross the finish line, but not everyone battles every minute of every day just to get to the starting gate – we do, and in my book, that’s worth a king’s ransom. Talk soon.

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