In the past, 'should' was a word that I consistently allowed to speak for me. It emerged from a fluency in 'not good enough' and eagerly contributed to a growing vocabulary of self-limiting and self-destructive language. Having brought awareness to its undue recurrence in my mind and its connection to how I was feeling and acting, I realised how little it served me to continue to speak it. It wasn't freeing or beneficial or a part of positive growth for me, and as such, it had no place in either my own self talk or my outward conversation. Bit by bit, this word was replaced with many other more suitable, self-supportive and encouraging alternatives.
Why? Well, because 'should's are shit. Our language has incredible power as a creator in our lives and shit words are simply not likely to create positive things for us. And we deserve to enjoy positive things!
Here's three questions to address my strongly averse stance on why 'should's are indeed, shit.
1. How does it feel?
Words have a powerful impact in positively or negatively shaping our feelings. That's because thoughts create our feelings so if our thinking is steeped in negativity, we're of course going to find our feelings following suit. For me, should always felt heavy. It was a pressure, a word laden with expectation, obligation and judgement.
Shoulds hold hands with the self destructive beliefs that create a current of 'not measuring up'. They feed into our perfectionism, our comparison and our feelings of inadequacy. Shoulds feel shit because they are suffocating; they steal the breath of possibility and choice. It's not a word of lightness, enjoyment or freedom - it's more harsh and demanding. It feels like who we are and what we're doing needs constant improvement. I recall it feeling like the fuel for the fire of panic, anxiety and an attack of inferiority, all of which do not belong in a free and content life. It's not motivating or uplifting or inspiring, if anything it detracts from my energy and puts my creativity, vitality and gusto on a standstill.
How does this word feel for you? When your mind tells you you should be this, that or the other? When you imagine scenarios of where you should be at, what you should be doing, how you should be? Does it feel good? Is it conducive to a supportive, positive mind?
2. Where does it come from?
The thing I've realised about should, is that it primarily stems from my beliefs about what others expect. It's an expectations word. By that I mean, it's not coming from what I'd like to do, not from my passions or internal zest for life - it comes from societal norms, expectations or external pressures. It comes from what we perceive others to be judging us on - our decisions, our appearances, our skills, our worth. Shoulds don't represent how we actually want to live our lives. They represent where we don't feel like we're measuring up - they piggyback on perfectionism and instill a belief that what we're doing is wrong and absolutely not good enough. From my experience 'should' came to represent the stick I'd beat myself up with for not being good enough in any area - physically, mentally, socially, emotionally.
What are your most common should thoughts? Do they represent a free and content you? Where do they come from? In who's eyes are they true or accurate or fitting for your life? Would your most authentic, secure and free self be saying this?
3. What are the alternatives?
Of course I recognise that we all have responsibilities and realistic duties to uphold in order to maintain a functioning lifestyle. There are certain things we must do. But I'd rather litter my life with the 'could's, and the 'would like to's. I want to fill my vocabulary with open, recharging language that leads me to potential and possibility rather than regiment and expectation. Realistically I can still pay my bills and work and do what I need to without feeling as though I should, instead seeing that I want to and I enjoy the benefits of doing these duties.
The words we use can be a fountain or a drain. We can flow into positive, enthusiastic language, using it to our benefit in freeing and unleashing us into the reassuring and supportive self talk that will truly serve us. Or we can drain our dreams, our individuality and our raw authenticity in the shoulds - a fluency of berating, judging and comparing that extinguishes our own beautiful fire.
To me, 'should' is a word we can employ if we wish to live our lives by the rules of others. Should will make our vision small and our minds heavy. It could minimise our efforts, our capabilities and our unique drive into something that doesn't seem to be enough - and that's why it's shit. Because we all have lives beyond shoulds that are so beautifully bound with potential, adventure and new experiences that are much more than enough. They are ours. They are free. They are plentiful in possibility and choice and the opportunity to enjoy both in our very own, very limitless way.