Friends? Are you “should-ing” all over yourselves?
We all wear a lot of different hats. Boss, employee, spouse, sibling, parent, friend, etc. Some matter a great deal to us, others we can’t wait to shed at the end of the day. And when it comes to our emotional wellbeing, the hats – AKA aspects of our identity – that matter most to us are also the ones that have the biggest impact on our mood.
Coming back from 5 days of travel with my husband, I would’ve though that I’d be floating on a cloud blown in on a fall breeze that smelled like pumpkin spice. Instead, I found myself feeling lethargic, restless, and irritated. I was at total loss and felt completely defeated. My inner critic took this opportunity to check my enormous privilege to point out that not only did I feel bad when I should’ve been skipping through my days with a smile, but I also “waisting my weekend” by feeling tired and not doing “anything.”
This sounds harsh. And, it is! It’s also very very true to what was happening in my mind.
The relief started to come when I worked backwards from my “should’s” – the things I was telling myself I should be feeling.
- I should feel rested
- I should feel grateful
- I should be more excited to be with my baby
- I should get all the laundry done
- I should feel more connected with my husband
- I should be able to catch up on some work too
When we’re bombarding ourselves with “should”, we are at war with reality.
- I should feel rested | But I’m still exhausted
- I should feel grateful | And I am, but I’m not feeling joyful every second
- I should be more excited to be with my baby | And I love her so much, but I’m also struggling to keep up
- I should get all the laundry done | But I just don’t have the energy
- I should feel more connected with my husband | But we’re back to our busy lives and passing out as soon as our heads hit the pillow
- I should be able to catch up on some work too | But there’s all the laundry, missing my husband, loving my baby, and feeling grateful to think about…
Again, should’s are our internal war with reality. Deeper still, they’re an internal war with the aspects of ourselves we defend most, or use to define ourselves.
In my case – I’m an organized, energetic, hard worker, who always has a sunny disposition, a devoted mother, and loving wife. Oh! And I always know what I’m feeling because I’m a therapist and should be an expert about this stuff. Ha! Do you hear how ridiculous that all sounds? The ego in all of that too…Ugh.
Working backwards from those icky should-statements helped me re-clarify the impossible standards I was holding myself to. As you’re reading this, maybe you don’t experience a lot “should-ing” on yourself. Maybe your should’s present themselves as defensiveness, criticism, or imposter syndrome. If you’re scratching your head trying to figure it out, think about the areas of your life or themes that create the most stress for you. Start general, and sit with them a bit. This could be a great time to pull out your journal.
Ending the war with reality
It may not seem like a victory at first, but being able to identify your “should’s” can be a HUGE win and a step closer to peace. When we bring awareness to our feelings, it helps us drop the story of who we should be. Then, we be where we are, reality. No matter how hard the wind blows, it can’t move the mountain. Reality is the mountain, and it wins every time.
Looking for some additional resources or support?
- Pick up a copy of the Treasured Journal & Guided Meditation Series.
- Join the Treasured Tribe – an online support group for women.