“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?