Unshackling from the ‘Shoulds’

As far back as I can remember, I was told stories when I was a young girl. Often, ones that delighted and amazed, that awakened my long held sense of adventure and desire to explore. Stories that kept me awake and that invoked my imagination and dreams. But, along with  Nancy Drew and Jonah and the Whale, stories of a different kind were told; ones that weren’t necessarily in a book or written down. Stories were told, shared and woven into everyday artefacts and anecdotes. Comments, observations, stereotypes and questions all re-enforced those societal expectations and perceived norms. The shoulds. How things were supposed to be. Stories are something we are told or that we tell ourselves and others to explain why we are the way we are. Or how we should be. They create a narrative in our lives and can be misconstrued as the truth, when they are just someone’s subjective truth, often perpetuating these shoulds. Society has its own set of stories, often unwritten. ‘It’s just how it is’ or ‘It’s always been this way’ was the standard response when these stories or implied standards were questioned. Some were woven into expected rites of passage, given life through the unquestioned repeat cycle, passed down through generations. The lived experience re-enforcing them, creating implicit or explicit expectations.

In telling these stories that no longer serve us and permeating them within our environments, we continue to create the perceived safety of sameness and often live in the shadow of the shame of non-conformity. Fitting in feels easier, as standing out feels like going against the flow. This is why these stories, these shoulds, have existed for so long. It’s a key part of the construct. Fear keeps us tamed. But it’s time to unshackle from those fears and those shoulds and chart a more authentic path. We need to start asking if these stories still serve you. Ask yourself if your story is causing you peace, joy, fulfilment and happiness? Or is it creating drama, friction or resistance in your life? Some stories create easefulness in our lives, a key condition for success. The others create dis-ease and really go against our own individual flow. Be aware of expectations, agreements, beliefs and shoulds that don’t or no longer serve you. Take note of how many times you say should during your day. The shoulds of society are insidious and they are kept alive if we continue to tell these stories. They creep into every facet of our lives, emanating deep from within the conditioning of our youth. Not formalised as black and white rules per se, the shoulds exist more in the greyness of life. How we define success, what makes us happy or the picture in our heads around what life should look like. Being fully human, we should celebrate our differentiation, regardless of the weight of society’s expectations. We are all different and we should celebrate this, rather than shame it.

Name your shoulds to shame them as this is all about consciously choosing. When you go through how some of these constructs and paradigms are showing up in your life, several will immediately stand out as a should that no longer serves you. Others you’ll continue to justify as it serves you in some way (but does it really?) and there are those you will fully embrace as ones that serve you in your life. This is all about what works for you, not what you are supposed to or should do. Shoulds are sneaky as they can be so covertly suggestable by ourselves and others. Rather, this is all about consciously choosing. Language may just be semantics, but words have a power in our lives. Restrictive and limiting language and how you use it in your life, consciously or unconsciously, should always be considered carefully and where you use it about yourself and others, and how others talk to you. As soon as you are aware of it, you’ll start to see how often it shows up, especially in how we talk about ourselves to ourselves. As Bruce Lee said, ‘Don’t speak negatively about yourself, even as a joke. Your body doesn’t know the difference. Words are energy and cast spells, that’s why it’s called spelling.’ Our words, the way we speak about ourselves sets the tone for us. They can keep us shackled in the shoulds of our lives, or they can set us free.

And where you do step away from the legacy stories in your life that no longer serve you, we need to remember that change isn’t always easy. Many around you will still ascribe to the should and may feel confronted at your choosing a different path. What is the elephant in the room, besides the person holding the judgement of you? It often says more about the person holding the judgement rather than you and how you’re showing up. The key here is to show up authentically as yourself as we reframe change as growth. Don’t dim your natural light or shrink to make others happy. Be yourself, you’re beautiful that way.

Powerful people have the strongest connection to their internal sense of self, their inner knowing and what truly serves them. And as you get more and more grounded in yourself and your sense of elegant power, your natural light will shine through. We only get one wild and precious life, what will you do with it? Who will you be once you have unshackled from all the shoulds that don’t or no longer serve you?

Nicky Rowbotham is author of Embrace Your Elegant Power – Your Path to Success with Ease and  Steps to Finding Flow – Flip the Script on Stress. Embrace Your Elegant Power is available in all good book stores, Amazon, Kindle, most audio formats and at nickyrowbotham.com.

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