If I could eliminate one word from the English language, it would be the word should.
Should represents something that we believe we must, but don't really want, to do. It often points us in the direction of those things with which we procrastinate (I suppose in that light, the word can be helpful). And when we aren’t doing what we think we should be doing, guilt, shame, and self-criticism begin to take root.
Should is a terrorist. It takes us hostage, only releasing us once the ransom of completing whatever it is that we should do has been paid.
The perfect storm of 'should' and change.
Feeling as though we have been taken hostage by the ‘shoulds’ is no friend of ours in the best of times, but it can feel even more acute when we are traversing the path of change.
We already have enough insecurities, with all of the newness; new rules, new ways of being, new expectations. To add a list of ‘shoulds’ is sheer madness!
And yet, many of us do just that. We allow ourselves to be pulled along by the leash of shoulds, even though there are many other things we would rather be doing. But why do we allow it? Social pressure, of course.
The social influence behind 'should'.
Should is a social construct, that implies that if we don’t do these things, we are bad. To do our own thing is selfish, and being selfish is also bad. And so, in order to stay in the good graces of those around us - those who might judge us if we don’t adhere to the ‘shoulds’ - we own them as our own.
We tell ourselves, even when nobody else suggests it, that these are things that we ought to do, and they should be done before we pursue our own interests.
Relinquishing the power of 'should'.
I say, UNLEASH THOSE SHOULDS! We don’t need them anymore. They serve no valuable purpose, and they take away our power.
It’s time to step back into a world where we engage our freedom of choice!
“How irresponsible!” Some of you might say. “Shoulds represent responsibility. If we never did what we should do, society would run amok!”
Please know that I am not suggesting that we cast off our sense of responsibility, or even that we stop doing things that we don’t want to do.
By embracing freedom of choice.
What I am suggesting is that we fully step into our choice to do those things that we believe are important, and to say no to those things that we don’t.
For example, if a friend tells me, “you really should join Instagram, everyone’s there and I know you’ll love it,” I might feel compelled to look into it because I feel a sense of responsibility to my friend, and want to make her happy.
But I know that I really don’t want to join another social media platform because I can’t afford another distraction right now.
It is easier to tell her, “okay, I’ll check it out.” And that, right there, creates a should. Damn it! If I had only told her, “thanks but I’m not interested right now - too many other things on my plate”, all would be fine.
But instead I said what I thought would make my friend happy, and now I have it hanging over me like a vengeful seagull, waiting for just the right moment to release it’s dinner so it lands directly on my head.
Beware of lurking 'should' traps.
There are areas where huge should traps lurk; families, work, and parenting, to name a few. These are places where assumed social pressure can converge with actual social pressure.
For example, let’s say you know your boss wants a certain kind of coffee in the morning, and she has typically relied on you to provide that (if you’ve seen The Proposal or The Devil Wears Prada, you’ll know what I’m talking about).
By doing it, you are willingly putting on and wearing that chain of should. And it’s understandable, because you want to be in your boss’ good standing.
But what would really happen if you didn’t do it? Would you get fired? Well, perhaps, and that’s probably why you keep doing it. In actuality, you don’t know. And you won’t know until you try to change the pattern.
At this point I feel I should offer more in how to do this (change the pattern), but as each situation is different, I’m not going to do it today. Instead, here’s a suggestion:
A quick way to break free from the 'shoulds'.
Choice = empowerment.
Turning 'shoulds' into choices empowers us. We can now say yes or no, and feel good about the fact that doing something or not is our choice, and not reluctant behavior driven by actual or perceived pressure from others.
When it comes to change, the more we empower ourselves to make choices, rather than allowing ourselves to be blindly pulled along by others, the more comfortably we find ourselves seated in the driver’s seat, which is the most empowering place we can be.
Coming up, a little magic.
Next up, a way to build our self-esteem and confidence during change. It’s called the Magic Mirror and it invokes the power of empathy in a very unique and exciting way, so stay tuned!
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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