Forgetting About The Life You “Should” Have

I’m sure you know what I’m talking about – the little voice in your head that says, well you should clean up and make things presentable. You should really lose some weight. You should be sure to snag a very attractive, and fiscally responsible mate. You should have sex with that mate whenever possible, because you don’t want them to lose interest. When you have sex, you should take special precautions to be as sanitized, glossed over, and carefully lit as possible.

You should have dinner on the table when they get home.

You should have saved up a nest egg by now.

You shouldn’t eat pie for dinner.

And so on and so forth forever.

Over the course of our lives we manage to soak up millions of messages about how we should look, act, think, feel, or be. Like little hungry sponges, our brains are working double-time to make sense of the world around us, and, in doing so, filing away all of the messages that we encounter on a daily basis.

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We store those messages away until the day that we would require them, and then, in a moment of doubt, the leap up, helpful and eager to tell us exactly what we should be doing.

Often, these are our most vulnerable moments – the moments when we falter and forget our way for a just a second – and they can become dangerous because, if we aren’t paying attention, our shoulds will jump up and shackle our hands.

The funny thing about moving towards the life you should have is that it can feel as though it is of your own creation. As in:

No, I CHOSE this cubicle job that I really despise, because everyone knows that working for yourself is ridiculous unless you have enough capital and experience.


This is the PERFECT mate for me. See! Look! They have absolutely everything on my list.

And yet, you find yourself with this nagging feeling that you missed out on something, and spend much of your time jealously scrolling through your friends’ lives on Facebook wishing you had exactly what they have.

You are the expert to your own life.

You, and only you, know exactly what makes you tick, what lights you up, and what will make you feel fulfilled. Because you only get one life, it is your responsibility to make the most of it.

Naturally, it is also your responsibility to ignore this post and the little nagging feelings tugging at your heart, tucking them away or telling them politely to fuck off. You certainly could do that, but what would you be sacrificing? What do you believe that you deserve in this life? What are your deepest dreams? What will make you feel all ecstatic and terrified, all at the same time?

In the comments, tell me about your shoulds. What do they look like? Where do they come from? How might you begin to tell them to quiet down, so that you can hear your heart?

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10 thoughts on “Forgetting About The Life You “Should” Have”

  1. This seriously was the perfect post for today! It’s my birthday and I’m spending the day thinking what and where I ought to be by now

  2. I should be putting every second that I’m not at work into building my art and writing career. I should be completely happy all the time, because there are others who have so much less. I should be creative all the time without any bumps or snags.

  3. I always feel guilty looking at Facebook posts…I should be pregnant by now, I should have ahouse, I should have graduated instead of spending 3 months in an ED treatment facility…it just makes me feel worse about myself…

  4. I find this very hard as for the past few years I have been living with debilitating CFS/ME which means I can’t achieve any of my “shoulds”! They tell me I should be able to see my friends, I should help around the house more, I should be able to shake this stupid illness off (or I could be well if I was just a better person). It’s time for me to accept that I have no control over what happens to my body, and I just have to work with what I’ve got. The “shoulds” have no place in my life.

  5. “Don’t should on yourself.” Those were the first words I heard out of the mouth of a very good friend of mine. She was responding to another woman’s self-flagellation: “I should be giving the kids healthier lunches,” or something like that. “Should” is a terribly oppressive word along with “Can’t” and “try”. I don’t use those words because words have power and they affect your behaviour and how you feel. I accept where I am right now as being exactly where I’m supposed to be. I don’t play God in my life which doesn’t mean I sit around and do nothing. I do what I feel called to do and that varies according to the day! I think a great alternative to the word “should” is “intend”. I INTEND to give the kids healthier lunches sounds much more empowering, doesn’t it??

  6. Hallelujah! You are singing my song, Mara. Life is way too short and way too precious to get stuck in the shoulds of someone else’s life and someone else’s values.

  7. Oh the shoulds. As I get older, I’m coming to realize that should is another swear word. The struggle against it is so worth it. I get to live how I WANT, not how I think I should live. I really like reminding myself “stop shoulding on yourself”


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