For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a writer. Not professionally, but in quiet moments in my room, on airplanes, and in birthday cards. I got a degree in English Lit, which for those of you who majored in a more lucrative degree, means I read a lot and wrote even more.
I’ve since been working as an editor where writing has very little to do with my day, and I’ve never felt more lost. In recent years, as my pen’s gone dry from underuse, I’ve told myself: I should write more. I should finally start my own website. I should journal every day!
I’ve journaled about three times in the last year. Each time it’s felt forced.
It wasn’t until an odd moment recently that I realized how much power I gave the word should. I wanted to write more, so I should write more. I thought I was making a commitment but rather than doing it, I was should-ing it. I was weighing myself down with expectations that felt heavier the longer I avoided them.
So that odd moment where I realized the power of should?
It has to do with a pair of jeans.
I was getting dressed, rummaging through my closet, when I found my skinny jeans. You know the pair. I forced myself into them with a few wiggles and shakes, a deep breath suck-in to button ’em up, and, after a few squats for good measure, they were on. And I was uncomfortable.
I wore them all damn day.
Why? Because I told myself I should. I should suffer to remind myself to eat a little less. I should make myself uncomfortable so I’ll lose weight. These goddamn black jeans were a self-inflicted physical torture device meant to impact my decision-making all day.
So often I find myself saying what I should do, how I should act, and what I should say. Rather than doing what feels inherent, I doubt every move I’m about to make. I live in a world of irresoluteness. I’m constantly questioning my life and how I’m being perceived by others.
I’m worrying about being judged, how I stack up to others, and how far I am from the ideal version of myself. And I know I’m not alone. For us women, self-doubt seems innate. I’ve never met a woman where “should” isn’t part of her most-used vocabulary. Think about yourself. Focus on your words for the day. How many times did you say it?
Should expresses obligation and also expectation. This puts us on dangerous ground. We’re not bound to much of anything (other than traffic laws and wearing clothes in public), yet we bind ourselves to self-perceived duty and burden ourselves with assumptions. Should-ing leads us to imagine a future that is based on a hypothesis. I know we have the best intentions, and are should-ing what we hope for ourselves. Yet ever so often, we’re should-ing what we perceive others want of us, too. The next time you hear yourself saying should, ask yourself, who am I should-ing for?
We’re so scared to let anyone down, yet we’re just fine letting down ourselves. How do we break our connection to these self-imposed expectations?
Discernment. Choosing. Willing.
If we choose our purpose and set an intention, we can turn it into action—we will be successful. Rather than I should, how about: I choose. I will. Let’s take away the ambivalence. Removing the indecisiveness puts the power immediately into our hands.
Rather than framing my life by what I should do, I am now actively working on living my life as I choose. I donated those dang jeans and now wear pairs that make me feel good (no sucking in and squatting required). And I’m sure you’ve noticed already, but I’m writing. It might just be me, but those words, I’m writing, have a ton of sparkles and hearts shooting out of them.
Let’s take the belief we have in ourselves a step further. Don’t should your way through life. Will it. Choose it.