Keeping mindful awareness of your “why” focuses your attention where it matters to enable you to bring your highest purpose into fruition. However, all too often many of us find ourselves feeling obligated to do things because we believe we should. “I should go to the gym five times a week, I should make an extravagant dinner for the neighbors who just had a baby, I should use all of my fingers to wave to the neighbor whose trash blew in my yard again last night.” We also limit ourselves with what we believe she shouldn’t do: “I guess I shouldn’t wear that orange dress because I’m ‘a winter’,” or “I probably shouldn’t go to that class if I don’t know that I can keep up.”
Shoulds come at us all day long and hit us from all directions. They can spring forth from within ourselves based on our perceived expectations of others, seep into our minds from passive media exposure, underlie interactions with our close friends and family, and lavishly flow from the lips of mere acquaintances. Often, receiving a list of unwelcomed shoulds is the first indicator that we’ve regrettably shared our vulnerability with someone who has yet to earn the relationship cred which qualifies them to receive it. “Oh, you’re not happy with your weight? You should try _____ (insert method you’ve already researched here).”
Unless these self-appointed advisors are also your arch-nemesis, they’re probably well intended – but either way their advice is likely more about them than it is about you. People love the way they feel when they help others, and if they believe that bestowing their knowledge on you will make a difference in your life, sharing in your victory over a struggle will validate their own sense of self-worth, or at least ensure that they’re not the only one drinking vinegar with lemon and hot sauce when everyone meets for happy hour.
You are not obligated to meet the expectations that others’ shoulds lay at your feet. Others do not have the power to make you feel guilty for not taking their advice unless you choose to reinforce this relational dynamic by agreeing to do something that you don’t want to do. You contribute to this if your fear of hurting the should-er’s feelings causes you to say something like, “You’re right, I should try goat yoga,” when honestly the idea of being soaked by an un-potty trained goat standing atop your back doesn’t really float your boat. You still might hear yourself saying “Namaste” instead of, “Na, Ima stay clean and dry at home.” In the moment, being dishonest about your desires and committing to meeting others’ expectations of you can seem like the path of least resistance, but this can only end in misery.
How to get out of doing something someone else said you should do:
- Wear sunglasses and a hoodie wherever you go to avoid being recognized.
- Make up an excuse.
- Make up another excuse that doesn’t negate the last one.
- Coach your family members on how to navigate your tangled web of avoidance.
- Fake your own death.
- Do the thing you really don’t want to do.
Even though just doing the thing you don’t want to do seems like the easiest strategy, it’s unlikely that doing it once will be sufficient. If you have a pattern of succumbing to shoulds, you’ll find yourself routinely prioritizing others’ expectations of you over the pursuit of your own desires. Before responding, give your logical brain time to consider that while you might hurt someone’s feelings in the short term, denying your truth now will hurt you and them even more over a longer period of time.
Most of us seek to do what’s right, but if you’ve ever found yourself approaching burnout, its likely that a review of your burdensome to-do list revealed that it was overwhelmed with shoulds. While well-intended, when you become overly caught up in doing what’s right by others, it can be easy to lose touch with what we really want for ourselves. When your true “why” becomes unclear you are susceptible to indiscriminately taking on responsibilities that aren’t yours to own. When we’re overly invested in meeting others’ expectations of us, our desire is their approval, and consequently your natural desires become buried under Mount Obligation. Sadly, buried alongside your natural desires are all of the skills you would be inclined to acquire and grow in pursuit of your aligned goals. The tragedy occurs when the greatest gift you could give the world goes unrealized because the desire to meet others’ expectations has you striving to achieve someone else’s dream using underdeveloped tools that were meant for something else. Meanwhile, across town, another person could be feeling ill-equipped while over-striving on a path that was meant to be yours to walk, but obligation keeps them where they are as well.
“I will take care of me for you if you will take care of you for me.” – Jim Rohn.
If you’re living to satisfy other people’s shoulds as opposed to your own heartfelt desires, your creative spirit will not work to produce the results you’re striving for. This can leave you feeling like a disappointment or failure, when the reality is that you aren’t properly equipped with the passion to develop what’s needed to fulfill those goals anyway – they belong to someone else.
When we’re living within our why and others are living within theirs, our families, our workplaces, and ultimately our communities become a harmonious exchange of authentic contributions based on everyone’s unique skills exercised within their values. People are free to explore their own creativity and embrace innovative ideas that drive them closer to their purpose. By honoring our real obligation to show up every day as the best version of ourselves, we free up others to do the same in their lives, which makes room for everyone to fall into what’s “right” for them.
Should-ers are the darndest, and their ability to stealthily show up at family gatherings, business meetings, around the corner of any grocery aisle – even in our own minds makes them nearly impossible to avoid. Prepare yourself ahead of time with the tools to face these shoulders head on while maintaining your resolve.
To prevent yourself from getting “shoulded:”
Identify your values.
What do you really care about? There are a lot of things to care about in the world, but if you strive to actively care about everything, you end up contributing to nothing. We created this simple core values exercise to help you figure out what matters most to you and is most worthy of your attention and focus.
Remember what you enjoy.
When you enjoy something, it’s not going to feel like work and you’ll be happy to put in the effort to continually improve. What is easy and enjoyable for you that is difficult and stressful for others? How can you focus those efforts into supporting your why?
Set your boundaries.
What’s yours to own and what actually belongs to someone else? Do you feel responsible for the outcome of others’ efforts, or for others’ reactions to your honesty? Forgoing your own boundaries can actually interrupt others’ ability to navigate life lessons that are necessary for them to experience in order to thrive in life.
Create a “Don’t Do” list.
Just because you helped your friend move the last two times doesn’t mean you have to do it again this time, nor do you have to go to cardioke with her afterward. If being the gatekeeper of your schedule is daunting for you at first, then appoint a trusted person to hold you accountable until you start to see the benefits for yourself.
Being equipped with these things makes you an undesirable target for should-ers, and they’re likely to cast their shoulds elsewhere when they see you coming. When you’re intentionally living within your values, respecting your boundaries, and only taking on responsibility for those things that are yours to own, you’ll find yourself living with enough. Enough time to discover and pursue your purpose, enough resources to bring your dreams to fruition, enough compassion for yourself when you fall short. As you get really good at it, you’ll find yourself living with abundance, as your confidence spills over onto others and leaves room for those with different gifts to step in and pick up where you leave off.
How can you be gracious in the face of those blessed should-ers in your life while honoring your boundaries?
If you want to, you can try out some of these statements:
“I appreciate your ideas, but I’m working with a wellness coach and we’re figuring out how my body works and how to incorporate new healthy habits into my life.”
“The most supportive thing you can do for me right now is listen.”
“That doesn’t feel right to me.”
“Thank you for sharing your weight loss experience with me, but it doesn’t align with my ‘why’.”
“Well, bless your heart, now won’t you be a dear and get your should the #&@* off of me, I have a purpose to fulfill.”
At BeBalanced, each of our clients comes to us with their own stories and struggles they’re looking to overcome. We work together to discern their own true “why” and honor it as co-creators of their wellness vision, uncovering their unique skills and abilities and finding new ways to leverage them in their efforts to rediscover the best version of themselves. They come to us with individual challenges and together we work toward individual and sustainable solutions that enable them to put their battle with weight and hormone related symptoms behind them. After they’ve won their wellness battle, they’re ready to face the world with renewed confidence.
And the should-ers? Well, if they make it past the strong boundaries of our BeBalanced women, we stand with arms outstretched to take should’s refugees into our fold when they decide their shoulds don’t belong to them any more than they belonged to you.
If you’re ready to honor your why…
Book a free consultation with one of our wellness coaches today!