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Lately I’ve really been noticing the word “should.” I’ve been noticing the prevalence of it not only in my own thought process and vocabulary but in the vocabulary of others…...and the more I have been noticing it, the more curious I’ve become. So curious in fact that I went and looked up the definition in the dictionary. The top couple of definitions of it go as follows:

  1. To express obligation or expediency

  2. To express futurity from a point of view in the past (LOL what?)

  3. To express a request in a polite manner or to soften direct statement

So based off of the above, when we use that word we are either 1.) Guilting ourselves or someone else, 2.) Making no sense / confused what tense we are speaking in (without really even realizing it) or 3.) Being passive aggressive

Not so coincidentally, I was talking with my roommate about my thoughts on this word and he told me a story he heard on a podcast the other day where a son was speaking with his father and trying to explain the definition of ‘should.’ His father, a man who doesn’t speak English, struggled to understand the meaning of the word and the friend realized that there was no way to actually translate it to his father’s native language.  

You’d think with such a confusing, borderline rude, word we’d try to omit it from our vocabulary, yet ‘should’ is foundational in many of our daily speech, mindset and thought processes.

So then why do we use it?

I believe it’s so rampant because it’s actually a perfect embodiment of the prevailing thought process of our culture which is one of constant grind mode in order to gain any form of success. To the depth of its core, the word is an embodiment of the masculine energy that infiltrates the foundations and messages of our society and most aspects of our lives.

For the sake of clarity, when I say “masculine” energy I’m not referring to the physical energy of a human man but rather to the spiritual / emotional feminine and masculine energy (yin and yang) that all things are comprised of.

So when I am referring to the rampant masculine energy of our society I am referring to the energy of pushing, striving, strength, logic, drive, busyness, doing and being goal oriented / analytical. While these things are not inherently bad traits to have, when they are the prevailing energy and not balanced with the Yin feminine energy (receiving, emotion, creativity and intuition to name a few) we run into problems (you can simply look at most companies, leadership and overall politics for reference points of overt / out of balance masculine energy).

I mean really, how often do we usually feel good after saying ‘should’?

I know for me, it is often followed by a sigh. There is a heaviness with ‘should’; a sense of guilt…..and when there is guilt there is an automatic disconnect happening between the head and the heart. Many of us are stuck living in our heads throughout most of our days, trying to filter through layers of personal and perceived pressures and expectations and ‘should’ fits perfectly within those layers. It contributes to the internal struggle within most of us of deciphering what we really want and what we think we should want (or alternatively, what we think others want from us).

Many of us, myself included, live our lives (or at least aspects of our lives) out of alignment; out of our natural flow. We can find ourselves so caught up in trying to keep up with life that we don’t take the time to listen to what we really want or need. We live a life we think we should be living based off parental, societal or just personal expectations and many of those expectations are unrealistic or just not our truth. We look up at ourselves and our lives and don’t recognize the person reflecting back to us or we have no real connection to the life that we are leading.

So when we live from a place of ‘should’ we are not living from any sense of joy, authenticity or connection. This is not to say that anything we are referencing as something we should be doing is inherently bad. We often hear or find ourselves saying things along the lines of “I should workout”; “I should eat better”; “I should meditate”; “I should do_______(insert activity you have unsure/mediocre feelings towards).

Even if these actions are potentially beneficial for us, if we are constantly guilting ourselves and approaching the things in our life from this place, how can we ever live from our hearts? Live from a place of joy? A place of empowerment? Despite the positive effects some actions may have on our lives and our well-being, is it really as impactful if we don’t actually feel good doing it? Furthermore, if everything always feels like a chore will we actually even stick to it?

If it doesn’t feel good to say whatever it is you want to say after ‘should’ then it might be time to reconsider if you actually want to be doing it. If it’s something that will contribute positively to your life then maybe it’s time to reconsider a different way to approach it that will make you feel alive and excited by the possibility of fulfilling that action.

Lately if I am able to catch myself I like to replace ‘should’ with ‘want’ and then I sit with it. I give myself a sacred pause. I find that ‘want’ gives me and my body a clearer access point to really discovering what it is I actually want to be doing in that moment. It can be confronting to begin to decide if you want to listen to the ‘should’ voice since many of us have been programmed to do so but just like starting any new habit, it takes practice.

So today notice if you use ‘should.’ If you do, take a pause and notice how it makes you feel. Do you feel empowered when you use it? Or do you feel a heaviness? Does it excite you to do whatever action is coming after it? Or do you dread it?

If it’s something that actually would benefit or contribute to your life in a positive way (i.e exercising or eating healthy) can you reframe in a way that makes you feel good? That actually makes you excited to do it?