Like a Horse
Have you ever treated yourself like a horse, putting on a snaffle and pulling on the reins to make yourself go where you need to go? Sounds like a weird picture, doesn’t it? Nevertheless many of us do exactly that on a daily basis.
As we grew up we were taught what was expected of us, what we should or shouldn’t do. Parents, caretakers and teachers taught us the rules we needed to abide by and the obligations we needed to fulfill. That was a good and needful thing. It taught us responsibility, discipline, the value of hard work and so much more.
If we internalized this role of supervisor though we have thinking patterns that tell us what we should or shouldn’t do or feel. We start “shoulding”. “I should be more outgoing” “I should exercise more.” “I shouldn’t ask for more when others have so little.” “I shouldn’t feel scared.” “I shouldn’t have laughed.” We even start “shoulding” others. “She should be more kind.” “People shouldn’t be so careless.” One way or another it is always a harsh judgement. It’s policing others and ourselves.
Of course there are responsibilities in our lives due to being an adult or to the roles we hold that we need to fulfill. We don’t always want that, but do them anyway and that’s fine. Yet if we “should” ourselves all the time we kill off the joy of wanting.
The problem is also that “shoulding” can become so automatic that it works as this hidden underground force in our life that we don’t notice until we stop and wonder. It’s like a computer program that runs in the background, always checking whether others or we are behaving well enough.
It never makes us feel comfortable either. It rather creates emotions such as guilt, shame, frustration or resentment. Our reaction is either mustering all the self-discipline we have to do as we are telling ourselves or going to the other extreme and procrastinating the heck out of life. Often we do so by distracting ourselves with anything with the main point being that we don’t want to feel the discomfort anymore. It can even go so far as taking the joy out of the things we usually would enjoy if we wouldn’t feel the pressure that “should” creates.
The solution can be manifold, e.g.:
- Just changing the phrase from “I should” to “I want to / I can / It would be good if” etc. can help.
- Asking yourself what is the reason behind feeling that you’re less than you think you should be can bring insights into the beliefs you hold about yourself. What are you trying to avoid from happening by shoulding yourself all the time?
- Take a “should”-cation for a day, a week, a month by simply not using the word. You might even start seeing that if you take away the “should” you start wanting again.
So basically let go of the “should”, for how can you expect to fully express yourself when you keep such tight rein on yourself?