“Let go of who you think you should be
in order to be who you are.
Be imperfect and have compassion for yourself.
Connection is the result of authenticity,”
– Brene Brown
This is an excerpt from my regular newsletter, “Escaping the Story.”
In that newsletter, I go over the stories we tell ourselves that are keeping us from being healthy, happy, and helpful people in our world, and offer some tips, tricks, and resources to get you out of that story and into a better one.
If you would like the full newsletter sent directly to your inbox you can sign up here.
“I Should Be More.”
There’s a frustrating little turd of a voice that pops up in my head from time to time. I’m willing to bet that you’ve dealt with too.
It’s the voice that says,
“I should be more by now.”
After years of dealing with this voice, my simple response now is, “Says who?”
We all have these voices in our head that tell us who we were supposed to be.
“You should have been better at this by now.”
“You should have been a better parent.”
“You should have traveled more and lived your life.”
“You should have made more money.”
“You should have followed your dreams.”
“You should have been further along the road and better at life than you are right now.”
I’m going to let you in on a secret that you will hear from me a lot…so I guess it’s not that secret…
I HATE the word “should”
And any variant of it including “ought to,” “need to,” or “supposed to.”
I hate it because it is SO UNHELPFUL!
It’s like saying I should have been born a savant.
I wasn’t born a savant.
I was born just plain ole Kurtis.
It’s not like I can go back and try being born a different person. This is who I am, this is what I have to work with, and dammit…I’m going to work with it!
“Should” is not helpful because it doesn’t make a change for the better.
It only piles guilt and shame and anger on top of what we think is a failure. If we want to make a change in our life, we don’t need more guilt and pressure put on us for what we can’t change (the past).
We need encouragement, ideas, and discipline to start making that change today.
The other reason I hate the word “should” is because
“should” implies that who you are and what you have right now is not enough.
There’s a scene in my favorite TV show, Ted Lasso where the famous soccer star Roy Kent is facing the reality that he is too old and too slow to keep playing soccer. He hates where he is in life and wishes he was younger, faster, and fitter.
Then, in a stroke of brilliance, his girlfriend grabs Roy’s niece, whom he adores, and asks her to describe her uncle Roy.
The girl says,
“Welll…he’s my uncle,
his beard is scratchy,
he swears a lot,
he buys me ice cream,
he’s really funny,
and I love him.”
Roy’s girlfriend then looks at Roy and says, “See…I didn’t hear anything about being a footballer.”
This is the problem with “should.”
It keeps us focused on things we haven’t done or things we used to do when the reality is,
our biggest gift to the world is who we are,
not what we have accomplished.
Roy Kent is one of the greatest characters in TV history and it’s not because he’s a great athlete or a huge success.
He’s an incredible character because he’s a funny, strange, and gruff yet tender-hearted person!
Who he is is the gift to the show, and it’s the same with you.
Who you are is the gift.
Not what you do.
And yes…all your little quirks are included in the gift of who you are.
Whatever stories you are telling yourself about who you should be by now, whether you are 18 or 80…stop it.
Stop shoulding on yourself (say it out loud if you don’t get that joke).
There is no prescribed timeline in life. Our timelines and goals only exist in our heads, as does the guilt and shame of not meeting them.
If you want to live a healthier, happier, more helpful or “successful” life,
what matters is right now;
this moment and what you choose to do with it.
If you WANT to travel more, put aside $10 today.
If you WANT to write a book, write a paragraph.
If you WANT to be a better parent or student or friend,
do one small thing to move in that direction today.
But don’t waste your time with the stories of “should.” You’re only making it harder for yourself by piling up the guilt and shame.
Escape that story by taking a small action right now.
When you catch yourself saying “I should have” or any variation of that,
“I should be better at spanish by now.”
“I want to be better at Spanish. 10 minutes of practice and I will be better at Spanish than I was yesterday.”
“I was supposed to be a famous photographer by now.”
“I love photography and want to make a living doing it. I’ll call a friend and set up a shoot with them.”
Should, need to, supposed to, and ought to are all focused on inaction and guilt. so
And rephrase it with some action words that can have an impact on the future.
Resources & Suggested Readings
- UnF*** Yourself by Gary John Bishop
- The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- Stop ‘Shoulding’ Yourself to Death by Psychology Today
- Life Coaching
- Life coaching changed my life. It made me healthier, happier, and more helpful to those around me. Sometimes there is nothing better than a balancing voice to consistently push you forward