You should really go to the gym today. You should go to bed at 9pm. You should most definitely finish off your schooling, go to university and get a degree, and then pursue a career in the work force.
Expectations and society. They go hand in hand really.
I have recently come to realise that we use the word ‘should’ on ourselves and on others far too often. Sure… we use a lot of words frequently, but the impact of this one can be life changing.
Why do we use it so much? Well that because it works. There is a certain amount of guilt and accountability that comes with what we supposedly should and shouldn’t do. Whatever we should do, is generally good for our wellbeing and lifestyle. The things we shouldn’t do, well those are just out of the question…. don’t you dare try to make your own decision about something.
When we say should, it suggests that someone knows better than our innate instincts, knows better than that gut feeling we get inside us when we know what we want. It also suggests that making a good decision on our own behalf is impossible, and causes guilt and anxiety prohibiting us from achieving decisions or choices that we (as individuals) crave.
What I have recently come to realise however, is that each decision in our lives is generally based upon what we think we should do first. We know what we should do, and hence, we inadvertently create ideology about the specific choices that we should avoid. We should go to university. We should be skinny. We should have a solid job by the age of 25…. the list goes on and on and on.
What this collective ideology also creates however, is a perceived CORRECT answer to everything. And the sad part is, almost everyone in society knows what that right answer is. Absolutely everyone.
This means that people know when you have selected an option other than the norm. Lets say that you choose skip university entirely and pursue travel overseas. Maybe you pursue a health journey that is outside of the norm and decide to try something that may benefit your body and your soul. Or lets say you decide that quitting your job is for the best, and that you would really be happiest being a ‘stay at home’ mum. Tough luck… but these, along with many other options in life, will inevitably leave someone (who has no relevance to your life or happiness by the way…) disappointed by your actions. You will somehow, in a funny way, be letting someone down.
But the truth is, and what I am slowly coming to terms with in the months of late… is that the answer to life is not universal. There is no universal right answer to how to live. How to be healthy. How to be happy.
By doing what you should and following these universally correct answers, you are letting other (often invisible and unimportant) people, make some of the most crucial decisions about your life.
So how am I changing this you may ask? How do we stop the should expectations from ruling important decisions in life. Well, its a work in progress… but my advice is here:
Firstly, I think it helps if you notice that connotations and reactions to the word should don’t always scream positivity. Listen to others around you, and yourself when using the word, and become in touch with your innate reactions to it. You may sigh, you may feel deflated, you may even feel that sensation in your stomach perk up as if you do not want you to go with these exceptions. The more aware I am becoming of how others around me use the word, the more I notice myself falling into the trap of using it too.
Annie… you should most certainly strive to look this way. You should act this way in order to be liked. You should go to university for at least three years and do this course and take this paper and be friends with this person…. You should eat this for dinner and get a job that pays above this amount. You should exercise and drink a green juice every morning. You should push yourself to stressful limits because everyone likes someone ‘busy’. You should work hard at university to get a degree.
Sound familiar? Yeah… it’s all bullshit.
So we have to question: Why do we consistently say should? Are we looking for someone else to make a difficult decision for us? Are we feeling guilty about going against society, so we are choosing the select the easy option out? Are we seeking permission from our peers to be something they deem to be correct?
Ask yourself: WHAT DO I WANT.
Life is full of choices, and in order to pursue your own health and happiness, these choices need to be based upon what YOU as an individual want. If you feel like you should do something thats fine… but consider the reasons why YOU ought to be doing that. Will you feel good when you do it? Will it benefit your mental, physical and emotional health in doing so? Are you really only doing this action to please those around you?
Unfortunately, we will never be able to escape the should expectations within society. There is always going to be someone out there telling you how to eat, how to exercise, how to love, how to learn, and how to live. However, what we can control, is our awareness and action. I am slowly learning to become more aware of my use of should , and the more aware we can become, the more I can control the choice of decision.
As a 20 year old girl in the midst of multiple societal expectations and rules, this process is by no means easy. I don’t actually think it will get any easier with age. But what I am currently striving to do, is to highlight a way of life that encompasses my individual, rather than socially based happiness. The reason I am sharing this with you is because I have realised that it is by no means selfish to seek happiness for yourself, and to derive from achieving someone else idea of happiness in doing so. Will you be happy living someone else’s ideal lifestyle? No. Will you be healthy living someone else’s ideal lifestyle? Hell no. Will you be satisfied living someone else’s ideal lifestyle? I’ll leave that one up to you.
Leave the expectations of what we have-to-do, what we have to look like, and how we have to live our lives, in the past. Attempt to make each individual choice because YOU want to, because its the best option for YOU at the moment, and because that overwhelming and exciting sensation in your stomach just feels right.
Do you. Do it well. And forget what society says we should do.