I’ve been thinking a lot about “shoulds” lately. They pop up literally every day and can really get in the way of us living life fully. “Shoulds” are the things you think everyone thinks you should do. And how confusing is that, for starters?
They have a way of making us feel guilty and obligating us to do the things we really don’t want to do. They diminish us, berate us, and beat us up when we don’t do what they try to tell us to do. Here’s some examples that might sound familiar:
I should accept that birthday invitation even though I really don’t want to…
I should be on social media because everyone else is but….
I should help out at the kids school this week, even though I really don’t have time…
I really should call my friend today otherwise she’ll think I don’t care, but I really don’t have time.
I should start on line dating because everyone else is, but I’m not that motivated…
I should stop online dating because I don’t like it ,but what if I miss out on meeting someone….
You get the picture.
Here’s 3 ways to loosen the grip of those “shoulds” on your life:
Notice how you feel when you say should
Do you feel anxious, confused, worried, have a sick feeling in your stomach? If the answer is yes, then maybe the “should” is conflicting with your values. Ask yourself this - if I follow that “should”, how will it make me feel? If it feels right, then do it knowing you are most likely aligned to your values.
In other words, if it feels right, do it; if the thought leaves you feeling “icky”, don’t do it.
Make a choice to stop
Remember we can make choices about how we respond to life situations. Don’t let the “shoulds” guilt you in to thinking you have no choice but to follow them. You are in charge here and can choose how you want to respond to that “should” voice.
Be kind to yourself
Now that you can recognize when those “shoulds” are present, let’s have some fun with new ways to think differently about them. For example you might want to try saying:
“I could accept that birthday invitation because it might be fun and I’ll meet some new people…”
“Perhaps I will take some time to look at social media, and I can decide to be judicious about what I read so it doesn’t overwhelm me”
“It might be fun to try online dating after all.. I won’t know until I give it a go and trying new things feel like an adventure!”
“I like the idea of helping out at the kids school even though I don’t have loads of time, because it feels important to let them know that I’m invested in their school years”
Have some fun with this! Imagine a life free of doing the things you think you should do - a life you can live on your terms with more ease and grace. Does that sound good?
If you would like to dig in to these ideas more, I’d love to have a have a conversation!
I help professional women whose success at work is costing them personal happiness. I help them find fulfillment outside of work, build satisfying relationships and create better boundaries.
Because we are WAY more than who we are at work.