By: Victoria Santoro, Guest Blogger September 1, 2015
Inundated with “shoulds,” it feels sometimes as if our lives are not really our own. We should study harder, work longer hours, eat healthier food. We should spend more time with friends, and also spend more time with family. We should be happier, smarter and more ambitious. It was exhausting just writing that!
In examining where these messages come from, I can say unequivocally that the people who matter in my life, colleagues, friends and loved ones, have never suggested that I “should” do anything. And while I seek out valued advice frequently from those closest to me, the only times I feel as if I should be doing something differently, is when I accept a message (usually via social or traditional media) from someone selling me something. These are vendors and they’re advertising everywhere. Diets, books, classes, schools, beauty products, clothes, gyms and anything else that purports to improve our existence. We cannot escape the culture of advertising.
image via alphamom.com
It seeps in slowly, through our pores and into our ears and ultimately into our minds. We are constantly absorbing messages that buying or consuming something will help us become a better version of ourselves. This is untrue and harmful. Achieving inner peace comes from doing inner work. And it comes from ignoring these persistent, pestering messages that we somehow need another thing to make us feel that we are closer to achieving the societal ideal.
Every time I leave work, there is an internal voice that says “You really should go to the gym right now.” When I get home, the voice says “You should eat something healthy for dinner.” “You should go to bed earlier.” “You should have worked last weekend.” We all have these endless little phrases that we tell ourselves. If we just achieve that one thing, we will be happy. This is wrong and I’ve made a decision to stop engaging in this pattern of thought.
I’m refusing to allow guilt and shame and “should” to dictate my activities anymore.
My response to these messages is to stop internally questioning what I “should” be doing at any given moment. Not only do I stop asking myself what I should be doing, I instead actively ask myself what do I specifically want to be doing. And then I go do that. If on Tuesday, I really want to be running, then I go running. If I really want to be reading, I find my book. I’m refusing to allow guilt and shame and “should” to dictate my activities anymore.
Take the time to check in with yourself, to be following the whims and desires in your heart and mind, instead of external messages that tell us we aren’t quite good enough. We are good enough. And the things we choose to do with our time are also the things that ultimately make up our life. So, choose happiness, fun, achievement. Choose what your soul is telling you to do. Try to resist getting caught in the trap of “should” and become more in tune with your true self. Our true selves don’t lead us down wrong paths.
If listening to yourself and doing the things you love feels revolutionary, embrace the revolution.
When you have "I should do____" thoughts, how do you act? Tell us below!
Victoria Santoro is a trial attorney who practices law in Boston. She is also a teacher, speaker, and writer, maintaining her personal blog The Limber Lawyer, and contributing to various legal publications. Victoria is passionate about helping young girls and women not only succeed but also find contentment and purpose. In her free time, she can often be found training or competing for half-marathons and triathlons.
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