How are the shoulds getting on in your life?
Are you filled with should, must, and ought to?
Are they dominating your every move?
Do you feel the pressure of expectations placed on you by yourself and others?
Shining a spotlight on the shoulds
The demands of modern day life are having a massive impact on us. But have you ever really shone a spotlight on this?
I did. And when this happened an avalanche of demands hit me like a fractured snow slab, melting under the pressure of intense solar radiation.
I suddenly went from believing that this somehow didn’t affect me, to discovering just how bad it did.
Prior to this spotlight, I listened to many conversations about how the shoulds of our lives put enormous pressure on us. But I never thought it related to me.
I lived in my little superior bubble thinking that ‘shoulds’ didn’t affect my life. I thought I was in complete control. I only did the things I wanted to do. I focused on my goals and my achievements and nothing got in the way.
How foolish I was.
Shining that spotlight on these issues showed me that I was run by shoulds more than anyone else I know. I had deceived myself into believing that I was in control. Well that’s what the ego does. It likes to keep things as they are, so it can give the illusion that we know what we are about.
The power of awareness
The crashing down of my shoulds came with me trying to break free from one person who had placed many demands on me. This person’s external demands, where met with my internal shoulds. We danced this dance our entire lives. He placed demands on me and my shoulds rose up to meet them. Often, these demands didn’t even come in the form of words. Being an empath, I just knew what this person needed.
But shining the spotlight on this person’s demand of me was like shining a light on a ravine that turned out to be a valley. I realised that most of my actions were based on shoulds. Shoulds that the ego had disguised as me being Ms Nice.
By clearly looking at the demands others placed on me, was I able to see my internal reactions, which were based on the fundamentals of should. Placing the spotlights on the external demands and my internal shoulds meant that all of these rushed from the background to the foreground. Every demand and should popped out at the same time.
I suddenly felt overwhelmed.
Panic set in.
I needed to run.
I watched as people tried to make their agenda, my agenda. I saw how I was manipulated into doing things I didn’t want to do. There was definitely a pattern of people taking advantage of my niceness on a regular basis.
But the one common denominator in all of this was me. I was the one allowing everyone to do this to me. I was the one who had no clear boundaries in place. Everyone else was just doing what you do to a person with no boundaries.
Our Beliefs Shape our Behaviour
These shoulds came down to a deeply rooted belief; everyone else’s needs were more important than mine. This belief was behind every should in my life. And consequently every action I took.
Someone in need, “I’ll take care of that”.
Someone else needs attention, “I’ll give them that”.
Need me to do anything? “Just call on me, I can help with your needs”.
Then came my realisation.
No more Ms Nice
I am on a journey of self-love and this awareness, although overwhelming, was for my highest good. So instead of feeling angry and overwhelmed, I just observed. I listened to what people were telling me or asking me to do and I questioned their motives.
It’s cynical to say but a necessity. I needed to decipher who was benefitting from this transaction, me or the other person.
When it came to taking action, as in, telling a particular family member that I wouldn’t be doing what they asked of me, it was met with utter disgust.
Being the nice person that I am, I fussed over what I would say, how I would say it. Even though I was telling them ‘no’, I still wanted to be nice. I didn’t want to offend or upset them.
I took a long time with this process. I spoke to my sisters about it. They thought I was insane. One of their responses was, ‘I don’t know why you feel the need to be so nice, why don’t you just tell them to fuck off’. Anyhow that’s not who I am or was. So I fussed for some time before I got the wording right.
The response from this person was to blank me from their life. Even though I was as nice as pie, they still blanked me!
What does this tell me?
It tells me that they are only interested in their own agenda. They really don’t care about me, even though they claim to. They’re angry that I have now set boundaries and they aren’t benefitting from the lack of them.
Initially I felt hurt. I was hurt that they could do this, when I had done nothing wrong other than say no. I was angry, with myself, for taking so long with my wording to them and for being so kind.
“When you are in the business of suiting everyone else, they really don’t like it when you start suiting yourself”.
So what did I learn from this?
I have been in the business of meeting other people’s needs all my life. I have put everyone else before me to the detriment of my life for as long as I can remember. And I can say this for sure, if you continue to put other people’s needs before your own you will end up 100% miserable, stressed, depressed and more than likely suffer with health problems. You will never really be in control of your life and you will always be run on the emotional needs of others.
And people don’t really care! What I mean is, people don’t care whether you meet their needs or not. The ugly part about ego is that it will take what it can from who it can. There are enough takers in the world to fill an army. Now these same takers can also be givers. And I’m sure there are many people who give quite a lot but who can also take a lot, me included.
The world is a fickle place when it comes to giving and taking. It can be a hard balance to get right. If the world is based on love and service, how much of it do you give until it becomes to your own detriment?
You hear all the time from the world’s thought leaders how we should give to our fellow human beings and be of service. I agree with this to an extent. But coming from where I come from, I now believe that the very first person we need to give to is oneself.
Fill up your own cup first and let that spill over.
Don’t let the demands of others trigger your shoulds
If you look after everyone else to the detriment of your own needs you will suffer. And the reason everyone will turn to you is because you have trained them in this way. You have made it clear, that if anyone needs anything that you are the one to call on.
That is until you come on a journey of self-love and self-care. On this journey, you put your own needs first. You cut all those people from your life, who are only out to get things from you. And for the ones you can’t cut, you make sure your boundaries are firmly in place so that they can’t take from you any longer.
Photo by Robb Leahy on Unsplash
“Start saying yes to you and no to the demands from others”.
How do you give up the shoulds and put yourself first?
1.Realise that what you consider as external demands on you, are really only a trigger to your internal shoulds. In other words, it’s not really the external demands that are the problem. It is your internal shoulds that are. And these are being brought about by the external demands.
Every time you feel a little stressed by an external demand, look inside to see what the corresponding should is. It is this should that will reveal the most to you
2. Recognise that your internal shoulds are based on core beliefs about yourself. This is the juicy bit. Core beliefs are fundamental to how we think, feel and behave in the world. If you can get to your core beliefs, you really have found what’s fuelling the engine. This can change your life exponentially.
The best way to recognise core beliefs is to pay attention. Become the observer of your patterns of being in the world. When you shine a spot light on something and you pay enough attention to it, the answers will always come. This is the best way to succeed at change. Awareness leads to change.
3. Set clear boundaries. This can be a tricky one, particularly if you have never had boundaries before. Tricky for you to implement and hard for others to accept. Those who benefited from you having no boundaries are always going to be unhappy when you suddenly have them.
Never the less, boundaries are essential for a healthy life. You set boundaries by simply saying no to the things you normally say yes to. Ok, this is a very easy formula to a very complicated subject but in the interest of simplicity this is what you do.
4. Learn how to say no. This leads into a much bigger area of what do you want to say no to and how do you go about it when your beliefs tell you something different. And remember everything we do is because of our beliefs.
Start with something small. Take a situation that you are aware of that you don’t like or want to do any further. As hard as it is, because you are used to saying yes, try a little experiment of saying no.
Now, I know this can bring up all sorts of yucky feelings but if you pick something really small, it should make it that bit easier. It could be something as simple as you always being the one to get the coffees in work, or you being left to mind someone else’s kids when you don’t want to. It could be that you go to a class with someone when you really don’t want to. Or taking a phone call from someone that you know will only delay you and ultimately bring you down.
The way you do this, is that you become aware of the issue first, then you decide to take action. As in, you are saying no the next time this event takes place. This means you are prepared for it. So it’s not catching you off guard. When the event happens you either, say no, refuse to take the call, or decide not to go to the event. Whatever the action is that suits the situation is you setting a boundary.
This will feel horrible the first time. Or maybe empowering. It depends on the circumstances. But it will get easier.
This reminds me of the movie Tangled! You know the part where Rapunzel has finally decided to leave the tower to see the floating lights. She is elated with joy one minute and is full of despair the next. She has mixed feelings that go on for some time before she finally accepts the situation.
This is the same for setting boundaries. There are mixed emotions with it. If you are like me, and you spent most of your life suiting other people, then it is very hard to set boundaries and feel 100% happy about it. Your entire life has been about pleasing others and now all of a sudden you have decided to stop this. This can rock the very foundation of who you are because our core beliefs are what our lives have been built on. Rock these and it can feel like your whole life has been a lie.
Also, when you are not used to putting yourself first and doing things for yourself, it is a whole new experience and one that takes some getting used to.
“To live a healthy and fulfilled life you need to put yourself first”.
5. Practice self-care. Self-care is the new buzz word that’s sweeping the world of personal development. And it can seem like a bit of a cliché but it really is one of the most important things we could ever do in our life.
It’s no coincidence that so many people are talking about it now. It just means that more and more people are waking up to this idea. This can only be a good thing. So yes, get swept away on this buzz of self-care because it’s what is needed right now, particularly if you are normally in the boat of looking after the needs of everyone else.
Over the last few months in particular, I have felt overwhelmed by all the shoulds in my life. Not all of these were triggered by external events. Many of them where my own internal shoulds that I have built up over a life time. Yes, they were created by external events at the time, until they became my own inner shoulds.
The trigger for me was the overwhelm and stress that I have felt.
I am sick of being bound by my shoulds.
I am sick of being bound by what I perceive as the needs of others
I realise that I don’t want to live my life this way.
I don’t want to have the longest to do list ever.
I don’t want to do. I just want to be.
I want to go with the flow of life and to enjoy whatever comes up, instead of always feeling like I have to be doing something else.
I want to start doing spontaneous acts that bring me joy and fulfilment and not to feel like that I am always the ‘good girl’, who takes care of every should and need of everyone else.
For as long as I can remember, I have worked hard. I have sacrificed many a thing for my ‘to dos’.
And while hard work pays off, there comes a time in life when you just want to go with the flow.
The magic of the world happens in spontaneous moments that unfold majestically.
There comes a time in our life when we have to put our self first, go with the flow and trust the universe that whatever is meant to be will be. And let the universe work for us for a change.