Guilt Threatens Self-Love
Sometimes when I’m in clinic listening to one of my lovely clients or going through the initial questionnaire with them, I hear a few phrases that get my alarm bells clanging.
- The week started well but then work got out of control. I should be able to stay focused.
- I should be eating better but I ran out of time to get to the shops and buy healthy food.
- I know I need to relax more. I really should be meditating every day.
- I should be exercising more.
- I should… should… should…
Or you find when you’re listening to what friends got up to on the weekend / in their business / with their family you say “Wow, you sound like you’re doing so well! I should start xyz-ing too!” Seems harmless?
It makes you immediately look on your life as not ok and that what you’re doing is not enough. If we’re not careful this can lead to the practice of ‘kicking ourselves while we’re down.’ Meaning, rather than look at the one area we may need to implement some simple changes, we start to find something wrong in all areas of our life. We end up dissatisfied and unhappy. Definitely not productive behaviour.
When we look around in the world, we find many ‘shoulds’ that compel us to take action. Have you seen this accepted pattern in society?
“You should complete High School,
go to University,
have 2.2 kids,
buy a house,
go on holidays etc etc.”
It’s implied that we’ll live happily ever after if we follow this recipe. Hello mid-life crisis! Or simply the realisation that we’ve done everything that was expected of us and we’re still not happy. What?
If we’re already living a life that’s different to what we should be doing, we can also be fighting feelings of there’s something wrong with me. It can take courage to live your life differently to everyone else. To follow your own path.
Guilty feelings can arise when we’ve done something wrong or we’re not doing something we feel we’re supposed to. Just like when we got into trouble for not emptying the dishwasher, taking out the rubbish or other play-interrupting chores you had to do when growing up. These guilty feelings continue to be triggered even now when we have autonomy and choice in our lives because they were locked in at a young age. Ooooh you’re SO going to get into trouble when I tell Mum!
We end up with a list of things we feel we should do to be a better person / business owner / parent / partner / friend. I can almost feel the pressure on my shoulders if I think of all the things that made it onto my old ‘List of things to do.’ It was pages and pages long! Did I ever get any of those things done? Maybe a few but most of them had so much baggage attached like ‘not being good enough’. No-one likes to do things that trigger pain or fear. We mostly choose pleasurable things rather than difficult or fearful things in life. However sometimes these behaviours that make us feel good are not always beneficial for us eg drinking, smoking, over-eating. Or avoidance can become our ‘go to’ strategy to deal with the guilt and pressure.
So How Do We Stop Should-ing?
Hire the ‘Should Police!’
As we know, to break a habit, we first need to become aware of when the negative behaviour occurs. Begin to listen to what you say to others and to yourself in your mind. Whenever you hear the word ‘should’, stop and ask yourself the following questions:
- Why should I?
- Do I really want to do it?
- Am I feeling guilty or pressured right now? (From self or others)
- Does it align to my life goals?
- What are the benefits to me if I do it / don’t do it?
Asking these questions will make you more aware of what you are doing and why. Discover what it is that’s motivating you.
Some activities in our lives are a result of responsibilities we’ve taken on such as being the provider or doing the housework and we can have a perspective that these are burdens and we don’t enjoy them. It’s good to ask yourself specifically what’s the benefit to you of doing those activities you feel pressured to do. Follow the questioning through until you can discover a positive benefit to you. Switch the focus from burden to gratitude.
- I’m really grateful to do the dusting (a task that I struggle with, it seems so pointless!) because it means I have beautiful things around me.
- I’m really grateful for my job because it means I can provide for my family / afford overseas holidays / etc.
If you’re really not happy doing something, remember YOU are the Master of your Universe and have a choice to either; accept it or change it. Change jobs, hire a cleaner for your home or honour yourself by just saying ‘no’. Or see a Kinesiologist. Kinesiology can be a great way to shift negative behaviours and change our perspective on our lives.
So next time you hear the word should coming out of your mouth, remove the guilt and pressure from your mind and body and ask yourself the questions above.
The tasks that make it on my To-Do list now exist only because completing them adds to my current life goals; laughing each day, experiencing grace in each moment and being aware of my connectedness to all things.
Is it time to hire the ‘Should Police?’ Share in the comments below what ‘shoulds’ you always hear yourself saying.