Releasing the "Shoulds"
“Should” has to be one of the most dangerous words in the English language. The expectation, negative connotation and inherent unworthiness of the word make it reason enough to never speak it. It indicates criticism and typically, criticism of ourselves. But, the emotion behind “the shoulds” is real, and for me, needs to be looked at.
I have been living in a lot of “shoulds” lately and am bringing the fears behind these “shoulds” into my awareness for healing.
Some “shoulds” I am struggling with:
+ I “should” be getting married and having kids immediately… I am 28 after all.
+ I “should” have a concrete plan for the future.
+ I “should” be 10 lbs lighter.
+ I “should” be making a certain amount of money.
+ I “should” know what my life is going to look like.
The thing is, these are societal norms, and actually, have nothing to do with me. If those norms align with who you are, that is wonderful. If they don’t that is equally wonderful. I have never been the person who did life as I was supposed to. Let’s be honest. I changed courses in University from Business, what I thought I should be doing, to Environmental Studies, which aligned with me. I went to Law school because I thought that was the logical choice when it was so misaligned, so I went back to school for Psychotherapy, Nutrition and a Masters in Health coaching and applied nutrition. Not the norm. I moved to Korea at 27 to teach English to babies and travel Asia. Something that scared the crap out of me because I was so afraid I was too old to be making a move like that. I quit drinking at 24-years-old. None of these are the “on track”. None of these happened in the timeline that society has laid out for us. None of these were really how I figured my life would turn out.
But, all of these positive shifts were shifts to becoming in closer alignment with who I really am. When I tried to operate off of what I thought I was supposed to be doing, life was pretty bad. I was miserable, depressed, anxious and living off of ego and fear. Because, when I aligned myself, my authentic self would scream the truth at me and try to let me know I was off course. Which, of course, I ignored/suppressed/dismissed/pretended didn’t exist.
The last few weeks have been challenging for me. I have really had to take a look at what the fears are underlying these attachments. Because that’s what they are, they are unhealthy attachments that are inauthentic, for me. None of this is to say that someday I don’t want those things, but it is to say that I am trying to force myself to be where something external is telling me I need to be in this moment. I am pulling myself out of the present and in that, creating anxiety and tension for myself and actually ruining the beautiful moment and gifts I have in front of me.
It is okay to have desires, goals, aspirations, and dreams. It is okay to want to be married and it is okay to not want to have kids. It is ok to want to have kids and not want to be married. It is okay to do whatever the fuck is authentic, for you, even if that is not what society deems “successful”. What I want more than anything is to design a life that works for me, not taking into consideration societies expectations.
What I also have to look at is that I am fearing the judgment of others. Nobody specific, just people in general. I am basing inauthentic decisions off of the opinions of the world, which quite frankly, are none of my business anyways. Because others opinions of me are not my concern. And, to be honest, nobody is thinking about me so much that they are forming opinions on whether or not I have kids in my 20’s or not.
How to shift the shoulds
Notice your self-talk, or out loud talk, for that matter. When you are talking to co-workers, are you saying that you “should” be going to the gym but don’t really want to? When you are making dinner for yourself, do you say that you “should” be eating more or less? When you are scrolling through Instagram and see a picture of another friend who has recently become engaged, do you have moments of self-doubt? These are all things that happen to me.
What are you being hard on yourself for, right now? Is it your body? Your finances? Your job? Your relationship status?
What fears are underlying those “shoulds”? A fear of unworthiness? A fear of not being loved? Fear of judgment? What is the first thing that comes up when you ask yourself that question? If you don’t know, how would you respond if you did know?
Be honest with yourself about what has come up and know that you are EXACTLY WHERE YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE IN THIS MOMENT. If you don’t believe that right now, look at something you were struggling with a few years ago, and ask yourself what might the lesson behind that struggle be? Everything is happening the way it is supposed to, for your own growth. Be willing to look at your own expectations of yourself.
I get caught up in the daily “shoulds” as well. Thing like:
I “should” workout
I “should” catch up with that friend
I “should” be saving more money.
I “should” go out for dinner.
In accepting what is coming up, it is important to make some priorities for yourself. I have spoken often about priorities and how they are crucial for ensuring what our authentic needs and desires are. Is it a priority for you to get to the gym? Or is it a priority for you to get some extra sleep so you can be fresh thinking for the next day?
What is the most loving thing you can do for yourself, at this moment? What will your future self-thank you for?
Every time you use the word “should”, release it. Acknowledge that you are being hard on yourself, do not judge yourself for using the word, and let it go. Replace it with the words need, want, or shift the sentence altogether. If you have just said, “I should go to the gym tonight” change it to “I am going to the gym tonight” or “I am not going to the gym tonight because I need some low-key self-care time” or “I am prioritizing going for dinner and connecting with a friend” rather than “I should be studying and not going out for dinner”. The language we use is important and it is important for shifting our thinking and our self-love.
Finally, what are your true desires? Do you want to have a partner and that is why you are triggered when you see engagement posts? Or, do you really want your own business but fear is holding you back? Get in touch with what your true desires are. My next post will be about manifesting desires and a guided meditation. Come into awareness of what you really, truly, deeply, authentically desire, and refer back to my post on setting intentions.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself. You are doing the best you can. You are right where you are supposed to be at this moment. Act out of love for yourself. Everyone’s journeys look different (and what a gift that is).
If you are struggling with anything and need an ear, reach out. If you aren’t sure what you really want and need some one-on-one guidance for clarity, reach out. I’d love to hear from you.