In this episode, I am sharing why I think we need to part ways with the should do’s from our creative work and lives, what do I mean by should do’s, and what I don’t mean. I am sharing examples of some amazing artists who chose to go against the tradition and ended up creating some exceptional works of art. I am also inviting you to consider the way you approach the should do’s in your life and sharing an alternate approach.
Links that I mentioned:
- Embrace – the group program (Doors are now open!)
- Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies test
- There are other ways podcast
- Sign up to the fortnightly letters
- Ask me a question or send me a DM and connect with me on instagram and let’s keep the conversation going.
Transcript of the episode:
Hello and welcome to the first episode of this series. In this series, I am sharing lessons that I have learned so far in my creative journey. I hope it makes you feel less alone and more hopeful. I hope it inspires you to keep going, keep showing up, and in building a creative work and life practice that works for you.
I hope you are ready because this episode today is going to be a difficult one for you if you have never thought about it this way ever before which I seriously doubt but
before we dive into the episode, I just wanted to let you know that the doors to my brand new group program Embrace are now open. If you are listening to the episode the day it goes live Embrace is also going live today. Doors are open now and they will be closing on Friday, 29th of May. Believe me, when I say this, this is the one program I wish someone had offered me when I was first starting out. I have designed this program for creatives just like you who want to build a creative work and life practice that would work for them.
I’m going to help you embrace the power of you in your creative work and life, develop a connection to your own intuition and embody the vision you have for your creative work and life in the present, in real-time. Embrace is a 6-month long group program. Think of it as a journey. A journey of finding what works for you.
It will be a space for reflection, connection, support, gentle accountability and action, and lots of encouragement while you figure out your very own version of it all and uncover your own answers. This is for you if you need a community, an intimate group of friends who believe in you wholeheartedly. Business buddies who are on a similar journey to yours. I know how lonely and scary it can be. I know how hard and overwhelming it all can be to cut through the noise and to learn to listen to the voice of your inner mentor.
This work of building a creative work and life practice that works for you is a lot about getting in touch with your own intuition and building that radical self-trust.
This is why I have created Embrace. All the details of what’s included are on the website and I can tell you, it is not what you think. It is different from all the group offerings you have seen before. At least it is different from all the group programs I’ve seen before. Anyway, there are only five spots available and the enrollment is only open until Friday, 29th may as we begin on the 1st of June.
If you are interested, just go to [hirasahmed.com/embrace](https://hirasahmed.com/embrace) and you’ll be able to find out more there and if it speaks to you, if it resonates with you, I’d love to have you! I’m so very excited about this!! Embrace has been in the making at the back of my head for a very long time and this is why it is so close to my heart and I simply can’t wait to begin.
Anyway onto today’s lesson now.
You have permission to let go of the should dos from your life.
For some reason, I never liked the word *should*. Wherever I hear it my head goes ding ding ding and pause and then I hear a little voice inside my head saying: consider an alternate approach. I used to think it had something to do with my rebel tendencies and as it challenges the way I value freedom. Freedom of thought. Freedom of speech. It is also that but it is so much more than that.
Here I am referring to Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies test. I am a rebel when it comes to responding to inner as well as outer expectations. If you’ve never heard about the test before, I’ll leave a link to that in the show notes for you but in short, it is an interesting and insightful approach to learn how well or how well you don’t respond to the inner and outer expectations.
Anyway, I was saying it is so much more than my rebel tendencies as to why I feel uncomfortable when I hear the word should.
The shoulds represent that there are only certain right ways of being in the world and that I find disturbing. It makes me feel limited and constrained. It goes against my values of freedom, curiosity, and experimentation.
It makes me feel that there is not enough space to be. Not enough space to tap into that authentic voice of yours and reclaim what has always been yours, your vision, your dreams, your hopes, and the way you define happiness, success, and even creativity for yourself.
Should do’s can become the limitations. either self-imposed or otherwise. To me living creatively means holding space for curiosity, exploration, experimentation, and even failure. This reminded me of a quote by Napoleon Hill, “Your only limitation is the one you set up in your own mind!”
What I mean by letting go of the should do’s is letting go of those expectations and that burden you feel to obey them and to not fall short when the reality is we are human and we can fall short, we will fall short every now and then. Won’t we?
It also stops us from going against the grain and wanting something different. It becomes the breeding ground for guilt, shame, and even bitterness. Expectations lead to guilt and shame which is of course unhealthy. Instead of how you think you should be or who you should be how about accepting who you are and the way you are with kindness and gentleness?
I think should do’s are also another way of picturing perfection – as there is no room for growth or even a mistake. But I’m sure you can relate to learning from mistakes. You learn by making those mistakes. Right? These should dos stop us from experimenting and exploring and we are so afraid of going wrong that we sometimes don’t try at all or don’t try enough.
How about we make space for our multilayered existence? We are humans. we are imperfect. Should dos make you feel obligated to do those certain things in a certain way only. You feel obligated to do those certain things and not because you want to do them. That’s the key here. Doing things because you want to do them and not because you think you have to do them.
When we use the word *should*, it implies there are certain set ways of doing things. How things are supposed to be. It screams there is a right or wrong way of doing things. It implies judgment. It also burdens the person on the other end hearing it with our load of expectations and our very own set of values.
I am speaking in the context of living authentically and creatively and I don’t believe there are right or wrong ways of doing things. As don’t we all have our very own definition of rights and wrongs? Don’t we? Just like the way, there is no good or bad art. Art is art. Good or bad is subjective and relative. Wherever there are two individuals exchanging their opinions there is an underlying sense of right and wrong depending on how they see the world. Our perspectives shape our realities.
Here I feel like I need to clarify one thing. When I speak of letting go of the shoulds, it is implied that you are a nice person with a good, nice, and sensitive heart. By letting go of the should do’s I don’t mean that you have permission to commit a crime or do something illegal. It goes without saying that I am strictly speaking in the context of living an intentional and creative life.
I believe it is okay to be different, to see things differently, and to experience things in a whole new light. In fact, it is essential to living creatively. Creativity is seeing and connecting the unseemingly together in a new way.
Creativity is about connecting the dots which sometimes can be totally unrelated.
Creativity is viewing the world in a way that is unusual.
It is about finding the hidden patterns and presenting them in a way that would make sense to the rest of us.
It is about breaking from the tradition and making space for the authentic you behind all those layers and I have learned that there is a lot of unlearning here that we need to do in order to really be able to listen to that voice of our inner mentors.
If you have ever asked yourself this question: how do I find my creative voice, my own unique personal artistic style – this is a big piece of that puzzle. Learning to listen to your own voice and having the courage to go against the grain.
Let me share a few examples of some amazing artists who broke away from tradition and ended up creating some exceptional works of art and were able to set examples.
Vincent van Gogh was one of the pioneers of the post-impressionist movement where Post-Impressionists extended Impressionism while rejecting its limitations.
The movement of Cubism was pioneered by Pablo Picasso. He and others who broke from tradition to transform modern art.
Another example would be Ernest Hemmingway. The way he changed the landscape of writing and influenced the contemporary style by going against the norms.
This is probably my most favorite example of all – Rosa Parks was an American activist in the civil rights movement. She rejected the bus driver’s orders to give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger after the whites-only section was filled. her willingness to become a controversial figure inspired the black community to boycott the Montgomery buses for over a year. She became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation.
Our experiences are what make us who we are. They define what we value, how much we value it, and why we value it in the first place. I value courage, vulnerability, simplicity, storytelling, creativity, intuition, connection, truth, and integrity. There is a reason why I value these things. Why I choose them to be the lens through which I want to see the world and to hold myself accountable if and when I fall short. If I am going to *should* someone else, I will be holding them accountable on the same scales I use for myself. It goes without saying, that’s not fair to them. Someone else might value something entirely opposite to mine. Or maybe they haven’t yet had the time to sit and process what they value in life and in their work but that doesn’t give me the right to tell them how they *should* be doing things, or how they should be seeing the world or interacting with it.
This reminds of Fiona Barrows’s podcast, ‘There are other ways’. I love the thought of that. I want to believe that there are other ways. It gives me hope. It brings me comfort to know there are other ways.
Anyway, you have no idea where they are coming from, what they had been battling through, enduring, and coming through. Your feedback especially if it is coming in the form of shoulds is not quite helpful. A little kindness would definitely be.
~~As Brene Brown says, ‘if you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I am not interested in your feedback’.~~
My life and experiences made me stand out while growing up and the choices I was making. I was the nerd who used to take studies way too seriously on the basis of those experiences and the things I valued. Where everyone else was enjoying being silly and making the most out of college life. I was trying too hard to make it to the other side. All my friends and classmates used to call me out on that obsessive behavior.
There was a mix of perfectionism and my desire to break free of the misogynist societal norms. I wanted to become financially independent as soon as possible so I could be who I wanted to be. This is a story for another time but I wanted to share this because of the way I was being convinced how I *should* be having fun and taking things lightly. Having fun and taking things lightly was another *should*. Out of all the things in the world having fun is not supposed to be the one that falls under the category of shoulds.
Our deepest desires and wants aren’t the same. We all want different things in and from our lives. And that is okay. It is okay to want what you want. I think the burden of shoulds is even more heavily felt on the shoulders of women. How we are supposed to be. Not too loud. Not too opinionated. Calm and composed. Not too emotional. Not too soft. Not too bossy. Not too anything really. At least that is my experience and I know by connecting to a lot of you online and offline, it is the experience of most of us. Almost all of us. It is okay to want what you want whether it is to be a stay at home mom or be it an owner of a sustainable business.
This is why I am passionate about sharing this permission slip to everyone I come across. You are allowed to carve your own path. No matter how wildly it looks different from others. You are worthy no matter what. Your worth is inherent and not dependent on the opinion, judgment, or how well you respond to the expectations of others. This is why owning our stories and loving ourselves through the process is the bravest thing we will ever do. Because it is hard. It really is. To cut through that noise and hear yourself. Hearing yourself is one thing. Then believing yourself in the midst of all this is a whole another thing. Our societies, families, and we ourselves don’t make it easier by burdening one another with that load of judgments and expectations. This is why I think we need to part ways with the should do’s.
While talking about this all a rather most simplified version of should dos in action came to my mind. Whenever I pick up a new medium to paint with, I find myself researching and looking up ways the right ways to use it. That’s how much we are conditioned to look for the right ways to do things. It is only now that I have started to question it and now I hear a voice in my head saying: It is art for god’s sake, play! There’s no right or wrong way to use this material. So you know what I am talking about here, right?
How about we start with this:
There is nothing that I should do. I am just going to do the things that feel authentic and right to me, I am going to experiment and play and I am going to trust myself there and I will start there and build up and see where I can apply this in my life.
It is about trusting yourself and your own desires. Here I’d like to add that the word should itself is not important but the intent and thought behind it is way more important. A load of judgments and expectations that come with it are important to be called out.
Let’s not let the should dos become a story about why we can or cannot do something that feels authentic to us.
I guess the take away here for you is to pay attention when the should dos come up for you whether they are the silently understood ones or if they come up during conversations. My biggest encouragement for you is to hold space for this idea that there is no one right way to live an intentional and creative life. The whole point of this season of the podcast is to encourage you to find a version of your own, a version of your creative work and life practice that works for you. The simplest answer to the question, how do you find your own version is that by trusting your own voice, even if whatever it tells you is wildly different from all the other voices – even if it is different from all those external voices and yeah, I guess this is it for today!
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