Our society measures our value by our productivity. My very first job paid me hourly, this was my first experience in learning that what I did per hour mattered. Suddenly 60 minutes needed to be filled with check marks and accomplishments.
Digging a little deeper: Maybe for some of us, our parents vented about how they worked all day, made dinner, cleaned, did laundry...and maybe sometimes the other adult in the house was on the receiving end of the rest of their statement which was, “and what did you do all day?!!”
Suddenly our young minds latched on to two key concepts: Should and Do.
As with most things, lets look at our childhood
My dad was in the Boomer generation, a farmer and a volunteer firefighter. When he was sick he'd say, "I can go to work and feel like sh*t, or I can stay home and feel like sh*t. Either way I'm going to feel like sh*t! So I'm going to work." Being a farmer means your work days are from before sun up, until after sundown, being out in the elements that come with working outside in all four seasons. During planting and harvesting season, I might see my dad on Sundays as it was his only day off (sometimes). And at night while we were all sleeping, he was responding to the fire department calls. Sometimes this meant he was gone for 2-6 hours of a night. So when he did have a day off he’d have it packed with other things: mowing the lawn, household needs, car maintenance, etc. But oftentimes he’d end up napping until dinner time. Then we'd hear, “I wasted the entire day napping! I should have done ‘this’, I should have done ‘that’.” Shaming himself. Judging himself. The man's body needed rest, and all he could focus on was shoulding all over himself. For my young mind, the message was loud and clear. Work, productivity = value, pride. Rest = waste, lazy. Perhaps you can relate?
No shoulding. No doing. Just Be.
Blame my Capricorn moon, blame my blue collar midwestern upbringing, or the fact I'm in business for myself, but I think I'm wired for the shoulds. I have to continuously remind myself to release the shoulds. I have to give credit to my Triathlon Coach, Nancy. One day about 8 years ago I was facing a challenging block of training and all my body wanted was to lay on the couch. My mind was begging me to get off my butt telling me, “how good I will feel” after my training. I sent Nancy a text expecting her to tell me to suck it up. I pay her to give me tough love after all. You know what she said? She told me to listen to my body and rest. No one had ever given me permission to rest. No shoulding, no doing, just BEing. This was major! Remember when I said my brain was telling me that I would feel good after I worked out, while my body was begging me to rest. How could my brain be smarter than my body? Spoiler alert: Ego lives in the brain. It was a trick!! My brain was luring me into a shoulding situation.
Are you really bad at meditation or do you have a shoulding problem?
If we are prone to shoulding, what do you think will happen if we get quiet? Our brain has thoughts, as it's literally its job to think. So we really can't be surprised when it does just that. When we get quiet the shoulds start coming in hot! Here's the secret: If you allow yourself to anchor in and attach to your shoulds, you're right, you can't meditate. Can you notice your shoulds and not attach yourself to them? Just watch them move on out without attaching an emotion to them? If we don't address our shoulding problem, we'll claim that we aren't good at sitting at and being quiet. But you and I now know the truth.
Shoulding: The covert way we beat ourselves up
Shoulding on ourselves is a fantastic way to reinforce negative self-talk. So what’s that about? When we get into our shoulds, exactly whose expectations are we attempting to live up to? What are we measuring ourselves up against? Whose opinions are we caring about more than what our body-mind-spirit needs? Who exactly are we trying to prove our self-worth to? Are we not important enough to release the shoulds and nurture our needs? Even dare I say, ignore the shoulds and tend to the things that bring us joy? Will the world end if the house doesn’t get cleaned, and you instead get a massage? Will you lose all of your social media followers if you unplug for a week? Will the sky fall if laundry waits another day? Will the company you work for crumble if you allow yourself to take a lunch? And I don’t mean inhaling lunch at your desk. I’m talking, log off, sit outside, enjoy your lunch intentionally so your digestive system can do its job with more ease. What's that, you never considered your digestive system?! Stick with me, we’ll be talking about all sorts of things.
The next time you catch yourself shoulding on yourself, can you ask yourself if for today, if for that moment, you can release the should? What would happen if in this moment you didn't give into the shoulds? What would life feel like if we didn't have a chronic case of the shoulds?