As this post is about the detrimental effects applying ‘shoulds’ to your life can have, I am not going to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. However, I hope to demonstrate how freeing it can be when you start recognise the regular judgements you have on yourself and let them go. Many people go through each day doing what they feel like they should, not what they want or even what might be good for them.
Usually if someone tells us: ‘You should do this…’ or ‘you shouldn’t do that…’ we can feel the need to rebel, most of us don’t like being told what to do. Yet we do it to ourselves all the time and can be left wondering how we ended up feeling so unhappy. You might be telling yourself you should be over that break-up, or you should be ready to go back to work. Perhaps you think that you shouldn’t want more from your partner, or you shouldn’t still be angry.
Who gave you these shoulds? Who told you it’s time to move on? Who decided what is the right path for you?
These shoulds often become so ingrained that they can form harsh judgements of ourselves. It’s okay that you want your life to be different. It’s normal that you are still grieving. And it’s fine that you’re still angry. Telling yourself to be any different then you are is not going to help you heal any faster. I try to remind my students and clients how much better they would feel if they spoke to themselves like a loving friend.
Being compassionate for yourself means trying to be caring and non-judgemental. Recognising how you feel and allowing yourself to feel it. Insisting to be different doesn’t help us move on any faster, often just giving yourself some space to be with your emotions is all you need. Starting today try to ditch the shoulds, or at least be aware when they are calling the shots. Remember you have to figure out what’s best for you not anybody else.
“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.” ― Christopher K. Germer
Life is fast. It seems even faster when we aren’t being present to the now. Many things keep us away from the present moment, however I believe that it’s negative emotions that pull us the hardest.
What do I mean when I say ‘negative emotions’? These are the parts of the human experience that can be the most difficult to work through. Anger, sadness, jealousy, worry, guilt and being judgemental are not enjoyable feelings. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling them, problems arise when we get stuck in feeling them. Which makes it difficult to let go and find brightness in our world.
I believe guilt (wishing we had or had not done something) and anger (wishing that someone else had or had not done something) keep us in the past. While anxiety transports us to a future that may or may not exist. Focusing all that energy on those moments means that what is happening right now is being missed.
Being present is no easy feat. So where to start?
- Awareness – start noticing your thoughts. Once you take up the role of a non-judgemental observer you can learn a lot.
- Options – once you have the awareness you have options. The next time a negative thought pops into your head you have a choice to make. You can follow it to the past or future, or instead say ‘no thanks’ and stay in the now.
- Develop – you can start to train your brain to ignore the fear or not to feel overwhelmed by it. These thoughts aren’t necessarily facts and in this present moment, there is nothing to fear.
As the Summer arrives it’s the perfect excuse to sit outside and focus on your breath. Imagine you are on a sun holiday. Most people find it much easier to relax on holidays because they feel like they’ve left the stress of life behind. That’s partly true but in reality the stressors haven’t changed, your perspective has. Starting today try to change your perspective, attempt not to focus on things that have already happened or have yet to happen. Instead learn how you can let go and be present. Maybe grieve, put the past behind you and start fresh. Live your life as if you are on an eternal holiday. Be grateful for each passing second, because unlike many you are here to be a part of it.
“If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.” – Ivan Turgenev