[3-min read] You’ve heard of this efforting business? I recently heard the term in an exercise class. “Be careful that you’re not over-efforting,” the instructor advised and maybe I was projecting since there were about twelve other students, but I swear there were lasers beaming from her eyes through the Zoom screen and onto me. “Keep your neck relaxed as you move your shoulders. There’s no need to involve your neck,” she added, shaming me into relaxing some. After class, I googled the term and found that efforting means putting in too much effort.

Efforting is my MO. Even a pandemic hasn’t changed that. And I happen to have chronic neck tension. There is a significant possibility that the two are related. Over-efforting sounds redundant and yet I understand the temptation to use it. It conjures up a memory of a bulbous callous I already had on the middle finger of my teeny right hand when I was in elementary school. I would grip my pencil and press so hard to write that a sizable bump manifested. Despite the discomfort, I ignored it until I got self-conscious about it in middle or high school. So I tried holding the pencil between my index and middle fingers rather than between the thumb and index finger. It didn’t give me enough control, though. I realized I would have to train myself to stop over-efforting—the “over” part seems appropriate here, doesn’t it?—while writing, but it was a challenge. I needed to catch myself pressing hard and pause, then allow myself to just glide. Gliding is not something I do naturally. I’m on the OCD spectrum so my life feels jerkier. Controlled stops and starts. Measured.

I measure the number of ounces of wine I drink (Ugh. So Elena from “Little Fires Everywhere”). I weigh the two halves of a pastry to ensure that my husband gets the larger half. I over-effort with friends and people I haven’t yet met. If I notice someone who seems lost or like they may need a recommendation, I snap into action. Out in public, I’m on high alert for anyone who might want a suggestion.

In contrast, I also over-effort to move out of the way. Last month I was mountain biking when I heard someone behind me. It was a steep patch with a diagonal tree root, and I wasn’t sure I would make it over, so I dismounted as fast as I could to be off the approaching rider’s line. I dismounted so quickly, I slipped and fell with my bike sprawled across the path. “Sorry!” I said, still scrambling. “Are you okay?” the person asked, clearly in no rush and concerned that I had possibly damaged myself. (Just a bruise.) That was the millionth time I’ve done something similar on a mountain biking trail.

Clearly, I could benefit from a different mode. I’m trying a mantra: I belong in my space. I’ve even experimented with taking up extra space in strategic places and not moving unless asked to (no one has yet, but this still makes me exceptionally uncomfortable). I’m also working to “mind my own business” at times, letting people discover and recognize their choices on their own—have their own adventure. So far, it’s going well. And I think I’m absorbing the benefits of dosing my effort. On that note, I’m off to chillax.

2 thoughts on “oVer-eFFOrTing

  1. I wonder if some of this may come from an effort to control life when you grew up in an unstable environment. Scott is way more lax about so many things that I feel compulsive about. I’m always busy, always cleaning, always using up every little bit. I’m nervous that I’ll miss something important if I drop the ball too long.


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