When Trying Becomes an Excuse - Erin's Inside Job

When Trying Becomes an Excuse

Using the phrase "I'll try" often turns to an excuse we use to avoid commitment and conflict. It gives us a way out with a lack of consequences. Next time you think of using it, ask yourself the following questions!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent a lot of my time telling others, as well as myself, that “I’ll try” to do something. Make that party. Get up for a before-dawn workout with a friend. Anything that got me closer to getting my life on track.

A common theme in the outcome of all of these is that I often didn’t do the things I said I’d try to do.

By saying “I’ll try,” I was doing two things: a) avoiding conflict by not having to say no to something I knew I wouldn’t do and b) avoiding taking responsibility for my actions.

Often, I knew that I wasn’t going to go to an event, stop drinking, do my schoolwork anytime besides immediately before it was due, or anything else you want to put at the end of that sentence. When talking to other people, it allowed me to give the impression that I was friendly and agreeable. With myself, it simply delayed the amount of time it took me to actually realize and accept the person I was.

With trying also came anxiety when it came time to actually do or not do something. Many times I knew that I was full of it when saying I’d try, so when the actual event or thing I said I’d maybe do came up, I then had to worry about the accompanying anxiety of not going or failing myself in my own intentions. So much work that I really only brought on myself.

Trying gives you an automatic way out. It tells people that there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll actually follow through, which, for me at least, often means I won’t. In contrast, by agreeing and committing to something, it is much harder for me not to do it.

There’s a difference between committing to trying something new and using try as a way to do the exact opposite. Think about the difference in these two sentences:

  • I’m going to TRY that new workout. Or donut. Or whatever.
  • I’ll TRY to make it to that new workout. Or to the donut place. Or whatever.

The first sentence is an active commitment to something new. The second is a half-hearted attempt to commit to the same thing. It gives you the option to opt out without consequences. If you do that enough times, it’ll become easy to not take chances and experience something new. If your “trying” also involves other people, you may seem unreliable after a period of canceling on plans.

The next time you respond to an invite or even to your own personal goals and ideas, take a few seconds to think before you answer.

  • Do you actually want to attend the event?
  • Is there more than a 50% chance you won’t show up?
  • Is this something you actually want to commit to?
  • Are you saying “try” simply to avoid having to say no?

Think about your gut answer to the question. If your answer is no, own it. If you think it’s something you can do but are scared, own that too. Embrace the feeling and then say YES. Even just verbally agreeing makes it that much harder to back out. You’d be amazed at how many awesome experiences you can have just by saying yes to something that scares you.

So take that early workout. Do something new. Commit. You’d be surprised at how much more you get done when you stop trying.

Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.


  • Do  you overuse the phrase “I’ll try?”
  • What’s one thing you can commit to with a YES?

23 comments on “When Trying Becomes an Excuse

  1. Yes, I am so guilty of saying, ‘I’ll try,’ and I’m convicted that that often means I was actually not telling the truth, because I only wanted to please others without being honest.

    Thank you Erin for this. It hurt in a good way. I’m going to be thinking a lot more about saying, ‘I’ll try’ in the future and asking myself these questions.
    Emily recently posted…German Chocolate Overnight OatsMy Profile

    1. Thanks for reading Emily! It’s always easier said than done and I have to keep working on it as well 🙂

  2. This is such a well written post! For me, I can relate to the anxiety of saying “no” to something..because I am scared of being vulnerable (If I say “no” to my friend or my mom, it means I am a bad friend, or not loving enough, or ____ enough.” However, saying “Ill try” makes it better for me in the moment…(kind of a shield from being vulnerable or feeling like I am letting others down) and it just perpetuates this cycle which totally starts to wear on me and is more exhausting than saying no and having an honest conversation in the first place.

    Thank you for sparking some great thoughts/self reflection for me.

  3. As a perennial people pleaser I can be guilty of this sometimes. I’m trying to remember to think about whether I actually commit to something or not without thinking so much about how the other person feels about it. In the end it’s better to be up front than to waffle about something only to decline in the end!
    Heather recently posted…Thursday Thoughts #19My Profile

  4. Wow, I feel like you wrote this post directly at me. For years I have been using the phrase “I’ll try” as a copout for my ED recovery. I say I’ll try just to appease people or get them off my back. I want recovery and I know that I have to quit trying and start doing! I am going to bookmark this post because I will need to remember this often. Thanks yoU!
    sarah recently posted…August GoalsMy Profile

    1. Aw that’s great I’m glad you got something out of it! I did it a lot in my recovery as well as a way to get people to leave me alone, but then I’d always end up disappointing them even more :/

  5. THIS POST IS EVERYTHING. If only I had a blog to link people back to this. I have been using “trying” as an escape to fully committing to things for eight years (duration of my eating disorder, no coincidence) but I am going to be extra careful to notice in what way I am using it and really tune into my feelings surrounding each situation. You have so much wisdom it’s astounding. You should write a book ! 😀

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