“Should” is a little word that can have a huge impact on an introvert’s life. This seemingly innocent, one-syllable word has the power to steer introverts in an entirely wrong direction, while robbing us of our time and energy.
It is a word that precedes dreaded tasks that someone else has told us we ought to do. “I should brush my teeth”, “I should go to bed early”, “I should go to the doctor”. Often, the outcomes are worth the inconvenience. Fulfilling our “shoulds” helps us to be good, well-groomed, healthy people. Sometimes.
Introverts can easily become overwhelmed by the never-ending list of “shoulds” that are doled out to us like candy from a young age.
“You should always say yes to an invitation.”
“You should be open and friendly with strangers.”
“You should play with the other children instead of playing alone.”
“You should smile and be enthusiastic, even if you feel otherwise.”
“You should engage in small talk and like it.”
“You should be flirty and giggly like the other girls.”
“You should be charismatic and charming like the other men.”
“You should stay until the end of the party.”
“You should adopt a new personality because yours doesn’t meet the status quo.”
“You should not spend too much time alone or others will think you are boring or depressed.”
“You should come out of your shell.”
Did I miss any?
We hear these “shoulds” so often that they burrow their way into our psyche and overpower our inner voice. We feel obligated to do things that we really don’t want to do, things that promise joy and fulfillment, but actually suck the life right out of us. We find ourselves in a fun house of mirrors, where there are distorted images of our true self at every turn. We emerge from the fun house of “shoulds” expecting to receive a reward for our sacrifice. But no one notices or even cares.
The truth is that this avalanche of “shoulds” often serves as a barrier to true fulfillment for introverts. As we struggle to do the things we should do, we miss out on the things we really want to do.
This has been a year of shattering distorted mirrors, and flipping the bird at the status quo for me. I’ve learned to replace the broken record of “shoulds” with my own voice. And do you know what I discovered? My authentic inner voice is driven by conviction, passion, and TRUTH. It isn’t propelled by guilt and some archaic sense of duty, like the “should” voice.
This is what my authentic voice has been saying:
“It doesn’t matter what other people think of me. It matters what I think of myself.”
“This is my life. I’m at the helm and I’ll steer it however I damn well please.”
“Some people will never ‘get’ me. That’s okay. I don’t need to connect with every person, just a few of the right people.”
“I don’t have to be the good girl, or the nice girl, or the fun girl. I am enough. There is no need to flatten my beautifully complex authentic self into two dimensions to make others feel at ease.”
“ All emotions are beautiful. I will not hide my true feelings behind a fake smile or carefree personality. I am human. I feel more than two types of emotions.”
“I do not need to ‘come out of my shell’. My heart is open. My mind is alive with fresh insight and ideas. My heart is full. Who cares if my arms are folded?”
“It takes courage to stand alone. As Martha Stewart would say, ‘it’s a good thing’.”
When you squash the “should” voice, what is your authentic inner voice telling you?
Yeah, I love this! The word ‘should’ is one that annoys me, especially when I find myself saying it about something I may or may not do. In a slightly different context – ‘I should probably do this/that/or otherwise’. I wrote a blog post on the passive nature of the word, it’s ability to make us think that we’ve done something simply through professing a non-committal sentiment toward it being something that in an ideal world we would do. http://www.sheepdressedlikewolves.com/i-must-stop-i-saying-i-should/
I hate the word. When other people tell me I should do something, when other people tell me they should do something, and when i tell myself I should do something. We just need to stop talking and do it if it’s something we genuinely feel we should do.
2013 was that type of year for me too! Lovely post!
my inner voice is telling me to that not everyone has to like me. or needs to understand why I am so quiet.
I absolutely have no idea how to get across to people how tiring it is for me to do things all the time. I finally realized a few years ago that I’ve been an introvert my whole life and just never knew a word for it. The “should” that gets me the most is spending time with people when I really need time alone. When people say that I “should” enjoy the time because I don’t see them that often or for whatever reason I feel like I’m being a jerk to want alone time. Even if I love these people dearly, still need to have time alone. I feel the stress building the longer they’re around, so when they are gone I’m so stressed I’m not any good to myself or anyone else. I’m literally seething when they leave. The “shoulds” make me feel selfish.
Even extreme extroverts like myself need time alone. I relish my solitude and hope all my introvert sisters and brothers will at some point too. 🙂