The “should” word

In which learning happens at Costco.

“Should is my all time least favorite word. It’s this sort of guilt inducing, finger wagging word that we use to beat up others and ourselves.” 

Frank Beddor

I just got back from Costco. I spent $640 on food to feed my family for like 3 weeks. That is so depressing. Why is food so expensive?! Granted there are eight of us but still…my poor MasterCard balance. 

The other bad news: I had to lug all those groceries into the house by myself because the kids weren’t home from school yet. Bad planning!

The good news: I successfully avoided talking to someone from my past life! Woo hoo! I consider this a great accomplishment. 

“Excuse me?!” You say “ That’s rude! Don’t you feel guilty about being rude like that?”

Well…not really.

I think we all carry these preconceived ideas of how we are supposed to feel and think. It’s like we have some obligation to do things we really don’t want to do, and if we chose not to, we feel bad about it.  

I’m choosing to challenge that culture in how I live. While I don’t want to harden my heart and ignore my conscience, I no longer want to live my life based on the words “I should.”

In one of my first counselling sessions after kicking out the ex, my counsellor called me on my “shoulds”. 

I was firmly ingrained in my thought and behaviour patterns based on the premise that I felt like I should feel or behave in a certain way, because I felt like I was supposed to.  It wasn’t that I particularly wanted to follow through on an action, but I did it anyway. It may not have  felt genuine for me to think or feel a certain way, but I did it anyway, because I felt like I should. 

Do you see what I mean?

It’s really funny how often I hear the words “but I should” in people now. When I catch myself or my family or my friends doing this I usually challenge them on it like that wise counsellor challenged me.

Why should you? Who said you should? What would happen if you didn’t?

Raise the rebel flag….

Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t help that elderly lady cross the street, or that you should walk around acting like a self-entitled jerk or that you shouldn’t be respectful to everyone. 

I’m saying think about it first. Are you acting or behaving in a way that is true and genuine to yourself? Is your thought life ruled by shame because of preconceived ideas on how you should think or feel. 

“Women most often experience shame as a web of layered, conflicting, and competing social-community expectations. The expectations dictate who we should be, what we should be, how we should be.” 

Brene Brown

There I was smack dab in the middle of the prepackaged meat isle and I saw this woman coming towards me. So what did I do? I acted like I didn’t see her and moved on. In that brief fraction of time all the thoughts raced through my head.

“Crap. Now what do I do. I don’t want to talk to her! She’s lovely and nice and all but I just do NOT have the energy for this right now! I should say hello and small talk but UGH. I hate small talk. And holy cow my walls are high right now! Holy defence mechanisms!..maybe I will just let myself walk on by. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do! She hasn’t seen me yet so I’ll just peruse the scallops like I’m really interested in them.” 

Just for context, I do not like scallops. 

I did not stop and talk, I moved on. Then my meta emotions kicked in. 

Meta emotions are defined as follows: they are how you feel about how you feel.

I am an expert at meta emotions. Being the overthinking person that I am, I am always analyzing myself to death. 

Anyway, I started asking myself “so…how are we feeling about this? Were we just super rude? Are we ok with this? Should we have stopped and said hello? Are we a horrible person now?”

I told myself that we were ok. When I unexpectedly see someone from my past life that’s tied to my ex-husband, I have this fantastic ability to erect fifty foot walls with cannons and boiling oil and massive armies in the span of 2.4 seconds. Sometimes I can take the walls down just as quick. Sometimes it takes me a few minutes of talking with someone to feel like I can start taking them down. But sometimes, some days, I just can’t. 

And that’s ok. 

If she had stopped to say hello, I would have chatted for a few minutes, and that’s ok too. 

However, I knew where I was emotionally. I wasn’t good. The walls were up and the cannons were loaded and ready to fire  (Not like spewing mean comments at people, just part of my ability to build medieval castles).

I needed to just walk on by that day. And I did. And that’s ok. 

The next time you find yourself thinking or responding out of an “ I should”,  stop and ask yourself why you should. 

Sometimes shoulds are perfectly ok. They can be part of our conscience’s job to help us behave in a moral manner that is pleasing to God. 

 But sometimes we need to reframe our thoughts to honour what we need, and not let ourselves be ruled by the unhelpful expectations that are placed on us. 

We are allowed to be the boss of us! So go be the boss of your shoulds!


Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

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