“I should really go on a diet…” – she said.
And then quickly added:
”But I am so tired of shoulds…”
You probably have this friend, too. Maybe you are this friend.
Thinking you should do this or you should do that.
And maybe like my friend above, you too are tired of “shoulding” yourself.
Why are shoulds so tiring to begin with?
Mostly, because of where they come from.
Most shoulds are products of all too well familiar internal pressure, and many of them are spoken with the voice of an inner tyrant who always wants this or that to be different.
To obey the shoulds we use our willpower – a finite resource. To bend to them, we suppress many of the natural impulses that drive our lives moment to moment.
On one hand we use energy to push ourselves to achieve, on the other, we use energy to silence what might be naturally arising from the inside out.
Soon, if we run our lives and our bodies like this we become unhappy, disgruntled, and at best, just do well enough to get by.
Yet we’re never quite satisfied, we never quite hit that sweet spot where we feel that we are taking care of ourselves well and we have the energy and wellbeing to show for it.
And how could we, when our life force is going towards pressuring and silencing?
In my program I teach about interoceptive decision making – being connected to the inner compass that helps us respond to our body’s needs.
There is a whole complex inner system that both tells us that we need to take care of ourselves and shows us how.
However, if you’ve had overwhelming experiences in your life and the kind of distress that leaves traumatic imprints, the interoceptive system may be busy working for the defense system, the attachment system, and even an overburdened or sensitive sensory system.
In other words, and translated into very simple terms, the part of you that is meant to help you take care of yourself and your daily needs, so that self-care is easy and effective, is busy doing something else.
And because you can’t feel yourself and what you need, your logical mind has to take over.
It starts to analyze, propose, tries to find ways to make you do this or that, and of course issues a million shoulds that may or may not quite match what your body needs at the moment.
So you end up working when you need to rest, holding it in instead of going to the bathroom (just one more email, I promise!), eating when you need to stop, neglecting yourself when you really need some nourishment, and saying yes when you really mean no.
You can restore the relationship to your inner compass, little by little befriending both the parts of you that have had to step in and create pressure and the ones that have been overcome by distress.
Then the shoulds melt away, because you are really feeling yourself, moment to moment, from the inside out, which is the source of all internally driven and natural self-care.
The kind of self-care that leads to well-being and wholeness, and not the next diet down the road.