And I need to stop saying ‘should’ altogether.

Because I’ll be doing something, and suddenly a ‘should’ pops into my head.

“I should work more.”

“I should drink less coffee.”

“I should be more successful.”

It comes in and paralyses me into making decisions that are detrimental to me.

Because should is a method of control.

Saying, “you should” removes the possibility of any kind of conversation.

I know people before me, many of them, have talked about how you need to kill your ‘shoulds’, but no one has ever explained to me the mechanics of what it does to you.

But last night, hubs put this formless dread I’ve been feeling into words.

He said that ‘should’ is cruel. It commands you to give up your own wants and needs in favour of taking immediate action according to the should.

It’s what your parents have been telling you all your life, you should do this or should do that.

And it feels bad to go against the ‘should’ because it kicks back, “Oh, so you think you know better? Here’s the obvious thing that you should be doing, but no, no, you know better.”

That guilt of going against the ‘should’ starts asking you who you think you are to go against this thing that almost feels like it’s being paraded as wisdom that has been passed down from the ancestors.

You can’t be an expert on you, so why do you dare to even try to think for yourself?

‘Should’ is a cruel tool of control.

It robs you of your agency, and makes you do things your gut instinct is screaming at you to not do.

And I realised that ‘should’ pushes you towards emotional dysregulation.

When a baby cries, their parents pick them up and rock them, shush them, and hug them until they calm down. That teaches that baby to do that same thing for themselves when they grow up.

That’s how we learn to regulate our emotional state.

But when you’re conditioned to do the ‘shoulds’ you choose—and this is the fucked up thing—you choose to go against what you want or need in favour of doing the ‘should’. You choose to push yourself into situations that dysregulate you. You choose to forego healthy boundaries and self-care in order to fulfil the ‘should’.

When you become habituated to do the ‘shoulds’ instead of what you want or need, you habitually choose to not regulate yourself, to not take care of yourself.

And then, like I did, you end up living a life that doesn’t feel like your own, because all you do is chase after those ‘shoulds’.

My instinct, intuition, gut feeling have never led me wrong.

Yet I habitually chose to ignore them in favour of the ‘shoulds’. For years!

I was MISERABLE.

And now I understand why; because the ‘shoulds’ rob you of your personal agency.

What to do instead of ‘should’.

I realise this is mostly just disjointed rambling, but my mind’s still reeling from last night.

So, if you just decide to quit ‘shoulds’ cold turkey, you’re going to end up going back to them.

Replace an old addiction with a new one, or you’ll relapse.

So, instead of ‘should’ ask yourself if you want or need the thing you’re about to do.

Just listen to this:

“You should come back to work at the office.”

Doesn’t leave much room for having any kind of conversation, does it? This statement doesn’t care what the other person thinks or wants.

But just one little tweak makes all the difference:

“I want you to come back to work at the office.”

Suddenly, there’s an opening for a discussion. You want something. I want something, too. And now we can talk about how we can work it out.

I’m also a lot more inclined to say ‘yes’ to that than to the ‘should’.

And while ‘should’ in itself isn’t an evil word and has a use, I need to clean it out of my vocabulary for now, because I’m causing harm to myself and to those around me with its habitual use. (Just look at this well-intentioned headline I wrote a few weeks ago without batting an eye: Why you should be embracing the Wild Woman within you!)

So, to improve my communication, and quality of life, I’m now going to use the words ‘want’ and ‘need’.

And I’m going to ask myself, do I want or need this?

All the love, all the power,
Starsheep


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