Shoulding all over myself.

I am realizing that much, if not most, of my stress over how my life is going has a lot to do with not living up to the “shoulds” that furtively, yet, persistently find a place in my thoughts.  These shoulds dictate to me what it means to be successful, what it means to have a good life, what it means to be good.

  • I should have children.
  • I should always be happy in my marriage.
  • I should have an amazing job that brings me joy and fulfillment.
  • I should unquestioningly accept the setbacks in life with equanimity.
  • I should be thin.
  • I should be beautiful.
  • I should have lots of friends and an incredibly active social life.
  • I should be happy all the time.
  • I should not be angry.
  • I should always like my husband.
  • I should always put myself last.

My entire life has been ruled by the shoulds.  I have ruled myself with an iron fist to bend to the shoulds.  The shoulds are the bane of my existence.

But lately when I become aware of these cruel thoughts I am learning to ask, “Who says?”

Who says that success means having children?  Who says that marriage has to “work” all the time?  Who says I shouldn’t be angry?  Who says I can’t grieve?  Who says I can’t be a loner?  Who sets up these impossible rules that are stamped into my brain?

Sometimes the answer is everybody.  Sometimes the answer is nobody.  Sometimes the answer is, “I do.”

I do.  That’s the hard one.  I’ve realized that my entire life I have believed in a very narrow definition of success, a narrow definition of good.  This definition includes happiness, babies, a great career, and an ever supportive and accepting husband.  Any other life simply is not worth living.  This is what I say to myself.  And I’m wrong.  I know with all my mind that I am wrong.

But telling that to my heart or whatever part of me it is that believes so strongly that I must have a child to be worth something, that if my husband and I have serious problems I am a failure, that if I prefer to spend most of my time alone my life must be empty…telling it to me so that I believe it in my soul is going to take some time.

I have been trying to tell myself different things–hopefully they will eventually drown out these subconscious messages that I live with.  No more shoulding.  No more iron fist.

  • I accept that I am not perfect.
  • I accept that I am human.
  • I accept myself the way that I am.
  • I’m doing fine.

5 responses to “Shoulding all over myself.

  1. I too am realizing that what I thought was my “perfect life” is not . Life was actually really nice before all this TTC business. But it’s hard to let go of a dream that is embedded in your mind from childhood. But I am working on it.

  2. Shoulding sucks! I find myself saying that word so often and it’s usually associated with some backwards preconceived notion I’ve picked up along the way. Really, we each “should” give ourselves a break. Hope your week is getting better.

  3. I agree with Erica. And I believe that a lot of ‘shoulds’ should be ignored – unless they come from a genuine place that makes you happy…as in “I should put down the damned toilet brush and get out in the fresh air”.

  4. Hey, we have the same “should” list! Though add to mine that “I should finish my degree” and “I should walk the dog everyday.” (Though I probably really *should* do that, I just find it hard to do.)

    I like you second list, as well. One of the things I try to tell myself is that I am responsible for my happiness – that I can *choose* how to respond to a situation. This is esp helpful when dealing with other people and their “disappointment” in my behavior or choices. Am I even making sense??

    Thanks for this post – keep them coming, you are providing me a valuable service in articulating the things I feel but don’t have the words to say it myself!

  5. All the “shoulds” are what make us unhappy. They force us into rolls that aren’t for us. The second list is much more realistic and will make you happier in the long run. Good for you!

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