Finding the Power to Stop the Shoulds
When the “shoulds” take over, we feel like we have no choices. When we feel like we’re out of choices, we become miserable. And I mean, MISERABLE. We despise our lives, we become depressed, and frankly, people don’t want to be around us anymore. Recognizing and appreciating the choices available to us in our lives is a cornerstone of human happiness. (It’s also a close relative of gratitude, which we all know can change our lives for the better.)
So let’s work backwards:
I don’t have a choice; I have to; I can’t.
Working the job. The toxic relationship. Where you live. Your health or state of dis-ease.
Feeling like we don’t have a choice, in any area of our life, creates despair. We often paint ourselves into this corner of “no choice” because we’ve allowed ourselves to be taken over by the shoulds:
You should work a typical 9-to-5 job. You should use that degree. You should decorate for the holidays. You should come in early, leave late, take work home, always be on call. You should always go for the promotion. You should eat Paleo/gluten-free/low-fat/Atkins/cabbage exclusively. You should be close to family and visit every weekend.
It’s exhausting. (I’m tired just typing those out.) But the good news is – I have good news and I have good news.
The good news is that you have a choice. YOU ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE. Even if it’s small, even if it’s not a choice between Bali and St. Lucia, it’s a choice. No one is forcing you to do anything in your life. Even the things that are out of our control; we still have a choice in how we react and our daily attitude. Don’t underestimate the power of choosing, every day, to joyfully live the life you have made for yourself. And then – if you so choose – to change it.
The other good news is that YOU HAVE THE POWER TO RELEASE THE SHOULDS. No one can should on you without your permission. It’s no one else’s fault; they aren’t doing anything to you. You are the one shoulding all over yourself. And you can stop.
Once we take away the power of the should, we give ourselves permission to choose what is best for us. To live authentically every day, to serve the purpose for which God has designed each of us.
I’ve found that 9 times out of 10, the “shoulds” that we have projected onto others in our lives (thereby making ourselves the victim) evaporate when we have the courage to challenge them.
“I should stay home with my kids because that is what good moms want to do. That’s what our other friends think, and I should be doing more crafts with them, too!”
“I should be climbing the corporate ladder, because I already invested all that time and money into my degree, even though I would rather be home every day when my kids get back from school. But I know that I will never be able to enter the workforce again!”
Look that should in the eye. Of all the “good moms” you know and respect, do they all stay home raising their kids full time? Probably not. And do you really know that all of your friends make this judgment of parents? If so…do you want those people as your friends?
Is it worth giving up your authentic happiness to play into what you assume others think you should do?
The point here is that this “should” isn’t really coming from your friends or anyone else. It’s coming from you. You are shoulding all over yourself, and that’s no way to treat someone you love. If someone else has directly put this “should” on you, then you are the one allowing it to affect you. You have a choice; you can take away the power that “should” has on you.
It’s been an idyllic summertime experience. It has brought me joy and even made me love my children more, to see them running and laughing and enjoying the simplicity of childhood. When I see the viral posts saying how we need to “give our kids a 1970′s summer” again, I just shake my head. Regardless of the decade, everything we need for a perfect summer is within us.
In a book I was recently reading, the author referenced a Facebook post that was going around a few years ago. In it, Facebook users were prompted to share a list of (somewhat random) things about themselves. Things their closest online friends might not know about them, but maybe should.
The author used it as an opportunity to pull back the facade on her life and be vulnerable with experiences from her past, feelings in her present, and fears of her future that most people didn’t realize about her. It resonated with all who read it, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
It occurred to me that I could make a list for my children. 15 Things I Want My Kids to Know About Me.
When I am laughing with my daughter on the floor as she pretends I’m her baby, watching the joy unfold on my middle son’s face as I “fly” him on my feet, or feeling the comfort of my oldest son’s arms around me at bedtime, sometimes my mind will think, “I should take a picture of this.”