For some reason, I never liked the word should. Wherever I hear it my head goes ding ding ding, pause. 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.
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 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? 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.
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. It is about connecting the dots which sometimes can be totally unrelated. It 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.
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, it is 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 but that doesn’t give me the right to tell them how they should be doing things, seeing the world or interacting with it.
This reminds of Fiona Barrows’s work. Her podcast is named, ‘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.
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 behaviour. That was a mix of perfectionism and my desire to break free of the misogynist societal norms. I wanted to become financially independent 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, partying 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.
As Brene Brown says, ‘if you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I am not interested in your feedback’.
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.
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 word should.