What are you doing? I said you shouldn’t read this! You should go and read something else. Get back to work, or whatever else you were doing before. I don’t even think I should write this. It’s just my opinion and who am I to share my opinion? You shouldn’t listen to me.
Still with me? Good.
‘Should’ is a loaded word. What did you think when I told you that you ‘shouldn’t’ read this? Did you get curious, think ‘why shouldn’t I?’ and want to find out more? Did it annoy you? If you thought ‘No, I probably shouldn’t read it’, then you wouldn’t be here. So, why do you ignore my ‘should’ and yet let other people should all over you? Don’t think you do..? Well, I do. Let me share some of the ‘shoulds’ from my story so far:
I should always defer to those ‘above’ me (because they’re more important).
I should keep quiet (as I have nothing of value to say).
I shouldn’t call myself a writer (because I don’t write every day).
…There are more but that will do for now! These ‘shoulds’ are from my past but some still return from time to time and I have to remind myself that they are not mine. They are the lies that wove themselves into my story somewhere along the line. They seeped into the language I used and eventually, the way I carried myself. The deference became ‘it’s not my place to…’, ‘I’ll have to check with…’ and a curved back, making me seem smaller when speaking to those who held more senior positions. The keeping quiet became an angry internal voice, telling me ‘who are you to…?’ and ‘your opinion doesn’t matter’ (or it matters less than X, so keep quiet) and not calling myself a writer was simply a lie.
Whose shoulds are they anyway?
Children challenge ‘shoulds’ all the time with questions like ‘Why shouldn’t I lick the knife?’ or ‘why should I go to school?’ Ok, so the first is obviously to protect them from harm (but just a quick hands up – have any of you ever licked the knife? Uh huh). The second question elicits various responses, depending on your stance. As for me… Well, why should I keep quiet? Because I have nothing of value to say? Really, says who? Who actually said that? Do those people have anything of value to say? What if what I say could be of value to even just one person? What if finding my voice meant finding myself? What if that helped someone else to find their voice too..? Have you ever thought about adding to an argument but kept quiet until someone else said what you’re thinking, then you backed them up? That.
What ‘shoulds’ are you carrying that don’t belong in your story? What would it be like to let them go..?
But don’t listen to me, what do I know? You shouldn’t be reading this. And I really shouldn’t have written it.