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Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself!


We live in a society built not on liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but on should.

As in: “You should send a thank you note to your Aunt Mabel for that lovely ceramic Jesus she sent you,” or “I should fire you for single-handedly shutting down our entire computer network”, or my personal favorites, “I’ve had enough fun—I should get married now” and “Oh my God I just turned 40 I should be having babies!”

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not anti-marriage, babies or Jesus figurines; I’m anti-should.

‘Should’ expresses obligation, but obligation to whom? If it’s to myself, then by its very nature it suggests choice, which means, in layman’s terms: “I don’t have to do nuthin’ I don’t wanna do!” Therefore, the obligation is to others, and really, all I can do at this point is quote Billy Joel:

I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life. Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone!

What is this pervasive belief that we must make choices in our lives based on other people’s preferences?

And the fallout is clear: when we structure our lives based on anything other than being true to ourselves, chaos ensues. It’s like the universe is saying if you refuse to live an authentic life, I’ll just turn you upside down and shake all the inauthenticity out of it.

I can’t tell you how many people I know who have experienced this ‘chaos’ as a result of decisions made because they were full of should:

  • A man I know got married because after years of dating felt he should; he now has a mistress.
  • Another guy I know agreed to have a baby with his wife because, after all, that’s what you should do when you’re married; the wife is a single mother now.
  • Every woman I know who is in her late 30s to early 40s is shoulding all over herself about having a baby. I asked one gal if it was her heart that was telling her she wanted a baby, or society. She thought for a moment and then said, “Well, to be honest, probably society more than me. But I’m 41, I should just do it before it’s too late.” Too late for what, a mid-life crisis?
  • I used to be friends with a fellow in his 50s who bought a Porsche, started saying “Cool!” a lot, and tried to turn me into his extramarital affair. All because he created a shouldy life that he never really wanted.

So when you find yourself up should creek without a paddle, I encourage you to think of this quote by Wayne Dyer: “If you are living out of a sense of obligation you are a slave.”

Selena Templeton is a blogger for JenningsWire, a blogging community created by Annie Jennings.


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3 Responses to "Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself!"

  1. Brandy W says:

    My belief is that a lot of people are slaves because it feels easier, with less conflict – at least initially. They want to “fit in”, they don’t want to be considered odd or difficult, or “just thinking of themselves”. There is fear. But in the end, it’s not appreciated anyway. Hopefully, they wake up to themselves.

  2. Brandy, you’re absolutely right. Most people want to fit in and they’re afraid of defending themselves if they don’t. They should be more true to themselves! (Oh dang, I just shoulded all over them…)

  3. Kara M. says:

    I don’t think the younger generation has the luxery of “should” that older generations enjoy. I can’t say that I should own my apartment with grantite countertops and a career by age 40 because those type of jobs that hire full time employees don’t exist. As for babies, well the planet was only meant to substain 1.4 billion, not the swollen 7 billion it is now, so I fully encourage people not to breed and to open up more birth control clinics worldwide. As for finding love by a certain age, people should quit longing for the fairy tale romance book love and endure multiple relationships and divorces-its tacky and and immature.

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