Letting Go of “Should”

I feel like a tetherball. My journey through life is carrying me around and around a central point, and the object is to get as close to the center as possible. But on the way, I’m going around in circles, learning and forgetting and re-learning the same lessons over and over. This is one of those lessons.

It comes in a lot of different packages:

  • Don’t compare yourself to others.
  • Don’t compare yourself to the version of yourself you wish you were.
  • Don’t compare yourself to the person you used to be.
  • Live in the moment.
  • Don’t beat yourself up over the past.
  • Don’t stress out over the future.
  • Let go of “should.”

They’re all the same lesson. When you focus on what you should be, but aren’t, or on what you shouldn’t do, but do anyway, you miss out on so much potential for good things in life. When I hear other people say, “I should be __________ by now,” or, “I should stop __________,” my first instinct is to say, “Then start already!” or, “Then just stop it!” (respectively). But when I say those “shoulds” myself, my first instinct is not to snap myself out of it, but to wallow in them.

I don’t know if this makes me kinder to myself or a horrible enabler.

Here’s the truth. When you feel a “should” creeping up, or when you hear yourself say it, you have two choices:

  1. Agree with it and take action.
  2. Tell it to eff off because you’re just fine.

Those are your only options if you want to be sane and happy. If it’s something you really believe would be of benefit to you and the world, take steps to make a change. If you find that you’re comparing yourself to others and it’s bringing you down, kick that “should” to the curb. You’re fine.

Sometimes, you have to choose both options. You have to say, “Here’s my action plan. I am at Step Nine, and it is perfectly ok that I’m at Step Nine and not Step Fifty. Step Fifty comes much later. Right now, Step Nine is exactly the right step to be at.”

I have to tell myself that I’m fine a lot. I don’t know if it’s perfectionism or just general female guilt (ladies, you know what I’m talking about), but I very often feel like I should be doing more, I should be better, I should be thinner, I should be more outgoing, I should have more savings, I should be able to do everything just by willing myself to do it, I should have a cleaner home, I should spend more quality time with friends and family, I should eat less sugar, I should clean out my car, I should read my Bible, I should exercise more, I should change out of my jabambas on my days off, I should do a closet purge, I shouldn’t have cut these bangs, I should have cut these bangs years ago…

The thing is that using these “shoulds” to take action is one thing (I really am going to clean out my car this week), but using them to beat yourself up doesn’t help anyone. So the next time you hear yourself say (or think), “I should…,” ask yourself if it’s a change that would improve you and/or the world, and if it’s one you’re ready to work toward. If so, make a plan, and make it happen, and accept every step in the plan as a valuable, necessary, good, productive one. But if it’s not a change you’re ready for, maybe see if you can let that be ok.

Author: beth

I'm told that I'm cleverly stupid, and that's why people are friends with me. And here I thought it was because I was so dang cute...

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