challenging 'should' and arbitrary standards

Should is a word that I use very sparingly these days. How often are we using the word should in a positive sense? What comes to mind are things like “I should clean the house” or “I should be married by now.”

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It’s mind boggling that we somehow have adopted this idea that there’s one way every person should be living their lives - go to school, get a 9-5, get married, buy a house, have kids. Or even little things like always having a spotless house or calling a relative. What happens if you don’t do those things? NOTHING. We’ve just created this collective way to make people feel bad for not conforming to the equation. We put so much pressure on ourselves to do things the ‘right’ way, but who’s to say what the right way even is?

Really - who is saying that you should do those things? In my case, it wasn’t an actual person (unless you’re counting me). I think in most cases it comes back to the things that society instills in us, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be making decisions or even entertaining thoughts just because ‘somebody’ said there’s a certain way to do things. Where did that societal standard come from? Does it really make sense in our society today? I don’t want to let myself place a judgement or guilt on when I ‘should’ be doing things based on someone else’s measuring stick.

Here’s a personal example: In my last corporate job, I had a lot of guilt around not being super grateful for my job. By all accounts, I should love my job – I made good money, worked from home with little oversight, and (theoretically) was doing the work I wanted to be doing. What’s the problem, right? But it just wasn’t awesome and I love working so I wanted awesome. And I no longer feel guilty for that. I removed that should and looked at the problem for what it was. I did not align with that job and that’s okay. After you challenge the should, you can decide what you want to do about it.

Maybe for you it’s an obligation that you’re not thrilled about but do because you already committed, maybe it’s something like housework that you’ve had on your list for a while and aren’t getting around to, maybe it’s a friendship that you’re holding onto just because of history. Honestly, they come in all shapes and sizes. These things take up our time, energy and mental space.

Getting rid of should from your vocabulary allows you to do a few things:

  1. See where you’re placing expectation, guilt, or blame on yourself based on arbitrary standards.

  2. Decide what you want for yourself in place of those arbitrary standards.

  3. Free up the mental space those judgements and worries were holding.

These are the things that I actually love to talk about. In what ways are you letting your subconscious thoughts play on a loop in your head without challenging them? There are so many ways we hold ourselves back and this is such a simple one to change. What parts of your life are you placing blame on yourself for something you ‘should’ do but haven’t? Is it even something you actually WANT to do? What do you want for yourself? These are some of my favorite questions.

Bracey GeorgeComment