Should we stop saying should?
Last weeks post was about language and the effect it has on our perspective. You can read that post here if you wish: Changing Language, Changing Perspective. I’d like to take another step into it.
Should, it seems, is not a useful word when it comes to perspective. There’s no certainty in should, but there is a fair degree of guilt. “The bridge should hold as we cross it” doesn’t inspire as much confidence as “the bridge will hold” for instance. When we use should about ourselves, we often carry it with the same lack of confidence.
“I should go to the gym”
“I should write more”
“I should leave the house today”
These statements are never definite; they already assume a lack of follow-through. Often they’re signs of the things we either wished we had more time for, or confidence in, or they’re things we feel a certain duty or responsibility to. Due to that, there’s also a guilt associated with Should, and especially with it’s negative counterpart, Shouldn’t.
“I shouldn’t feel so down/I should be happy”
“I shouldn’t want to be alone/I should want to be socialising”
These statements, these ‘Should Statements‘ as I’ve been taught to call them, often carry negative effects. One method I’ve found is to ask “Says who?” and “Why?“, it’s a way of finding out where the pressure comes from and whether the pressure is actually beneficial. If, for instance, “I should lose weight” isn’t coming from any particular health-benefit (besides the constant health benefit of maintaining a safe and comfortable weight), then that statement is, perhaps, coming from societal expectation; perhaps you feel guilty that other people are losing weight around you, or perhaps you lack self-esteem based on the models in the magazines. When I ask “Why should I?“, I tend to discover this truth and, in turn, develop a better way of facing the issue. I’ll break one of mine down for you now:
“I should write more/I should be more motivated/I shouldn’t waste so much time”
Sound like any Clockwork Clouds Blog Post you’ve read before? If you’re a regular, you will have. It’s something I’ve repeated time and time again ad nauseum. I can only imagine what my regular readers think, rolling their eyes every time I repeat it. So, I’ve deconstructed those ‘Should Statements’ and asked myself “Says who?”. The answer is instantly: “Me“. Nobody else out there cares if I write, there’s no societal pressure to do so, there’s nothing in the law about it, it’s up to me. Just knowing where the pressure is coming from can lessen it, and learning that it comes from an internal drive can lessen it moreso.
Lets ask the next question, “Why should I?“, and here-in lies the truth behind the guilt:
“Because I want to be a writer”
“Because I want to be more productive”
“Because I want to get more done”
“Because I feel I have something to say”
and most importantly,
“Because writing makes me feel better”
Already I can see the reason I feel guilty about it is because it matters to me. It’s something powerful and meaningful to me; it’s a desire. It’s also something beneficial to me, I want to write because it makes me feel good. Don’t we all want to feel good? Instead of saying “I should write more” I can say “Writing makes me feel good“. I’m far more likely to do something that makes me feel good and I’m far more likely to put off something I’ve been feeling guilty about (“I should write, but…“).
As with all things, it has it’s limitations. It doesn’t work for everything and in some cases it’s the reverse. “I shouldn’t touch the hot kettle“, for instance, is a statement to trust. However, next time you find yourself using a should statement, try deconstructing its meaning, its truth, and its why. “Exercising makes me feel better“, “I enjoy seeing my friends“, “I want to fit into my new dress“, “I have things to be thankful for“.