You (really) shouldn’t read this

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).

New story starter_I really shouldn't_WritingPeoplePoetry…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.

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13 thoughts on “You (really) shouldn’t read this

  1. Great post! I know what you mean about ‘shoulds’. They can be totally disempowering. But equally, the phrase ‘you *should* call yourself a writer’ can be useful too (and other such phrases…).

    Thankfully I let go of a fair bit of ‘shoulds’ a while ago, but they’re certainly sneaky and can catch up on a person.

    Thanks for your thought-provoking post. 🙂

    • Thanks Marija! Good point about the positive aspect of some ‘shoulds’… But yes, other people’s shoulds can certainly sneak up can’t they? Glad your enjoyed the post.

  2. You’ve reminded me to be aware of the unconscious ‘shoulds’ that creep into my thinking – I have thought about this before, but it’s easy to slip back into old habits – so thanks!

  3. Reading this was a little bit of a light bulb moment. It sounds so obvious when you write it down, but I hadn’t thought about the positive/negative aspects of ‘shoulds’ before. There are a fair few negative ones in my life (and some positive), and I *should* work on getting rid of those 🙂 Great post x

  4. Very much enjoyed reading this! I put up a thousand shoulds and should nots evey day. Most of them are so ingrained I can’t recall why they were first introduced. Will keep this in mind the next time I tell myself I should do something!!

    • They do get ingrained don’t they? When I got curious about my ‘shoulds’ I was surprised to realise where some of them came from! Hope you can loose some of your less helpful ones!

  5. Love this post! I now have an ‘interesting’ image in my head of people ‘should-ing’ all over each other. It’s a good visual image when the shoulds are negative! I’ve noticed a lot of shoulds in parenting: ‘you should be providing such and such an opportunity for your child’, ‘your child should be doing this or that’… I ignore them as much as possible but they can be a bit sneaky can’t they? I’m going to try and stay more aware of them from now on. Thanks for linking to #WhatImWriting

    • Haha! Love the mental image Maddy. As for the shoulds in parenting… That’s a whole other post (or two, or three!) and the inspiration behind my Proudly Imperfect Parents workshops (I’m working on the online programme at the moment)! They are very sneaky, I agree.

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