by Annie 

August 5, 2020

create your own path

You want a life you’re in love with, right? We all do. Letting go of other people’s expectations has to happen before you can really get clear on what you want your life to look like. 

We have to start by looking at the stories we tell ourselves about how things are supposed to be. What we think we “should” be doing has a huge impact on how we show up for ourselves and what we see as possible. 

The word “should” is a common way we keep ourselves stuck in shame, unhappiness, and other people’s expectations. It’s time to stop. This word needs to be removed from our vocabulary. Let’s explore why and how. 

Understanding Our “Should” Stories

stuck in the stories

Many of us spend our days on what we think we should be doing instead of what we actually want to be doing. Why? 

Usually our Should Stories come from how someone else thinks life ought to be done. Maybe this idea was passed down from a parent, teacher, or it could be part of our overall societal programming. As women, we get so many conflicting messages about how we “should” be that we couldn’t live up to them all, even if we cared to try! 

Somewhere along the way, we got the idea that there is a “right” way to do life. Let’s go ahead and call “bullshit” now.  There’s no right way. There’s only the way that’s best for you. 

Sometimes we want to hang onto our Should Stories because they provide some sort of road map, instead of having to make up your own rules. Here’s a little secret - making your own rules is where it’s at, my friend! It’s one of the biggest steps toward reclaiming your life.  It's time to start letting go of all those stories you've been carrying around.

The vast majority of your Should Stories can go directly into the garbage. You don’t need them. All they do is hold you back. 

How "Should" Kills Self-Worth

destruction of self-worth

Our Should Stories are one of the biggest killers of self-worth. If I believe I’m only worth what I produce, then I guarantee I’ll have all sorts of Should Stories about it. You can pretty much bet these two things are intertwined when we’re looking outside ourselves for worth and validation.

When we believe there’s a “right” way to be or do life, we try to check all the boxes so we can tell ourselves we’re doing a good job. Here’s the problem -- we don’t actually care very much about a lot of the things we “should” be doing. We simply force ourselves to do them to fit in and get the gold star for doing it “right”.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty terrible and doing shit I don’t care about. When this includes a Should Story, and I don’t live up to the expectation, it can leave me feeling shitty about myself. Like I’m failing at life. 

Nope. I refuse to believe that. I’m just failing at someone else’s version of my life.

Letting Go of Your Should Stories

unravel the should stories

Letting go of all these stories and beliefs is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. It starts with simply recognizing them when they show up. Once you start paying attention, you might be surprised by how many of them you find! Once it’s part of your awareness, you can start to change it. 

It’s taken me years to undo a lot of these stories, and plenty of them still show up. One of the big ones for me is around productivity. When I want to relax, my gremlins (that’s what I call these nasty storytellers) will show up and start saying things like, “You should write that email.” or  “You should work on your website.” Damn, can we chill?! I’m allowed to have time to rest and relax. Not according to my gremlins. 

Sometimes my Should Stories will show up about legitimate work that needs to get done. For example, “Annie, you really should do some laundry.” 

Okay, I’m out of clean socks and if I want to go for a walk, this could be problematic. Because “should” is so entangled with other people’s expectations and judgement, I choose to say it a different way. 

Instead of “should”, I’ll change it to, “I choose to do my laundry right now because I’d like to have clean socks when I want to go on a walk.” Actively choosing is so much more powerful that being shamed or guilted into it. It allows you show up with a completely different energy that changes the entire activity.

You don’t have to stay captive to the “should”s in your life! You can let them go and create new stories for yourself. It takes a little bit of work, but damn, letting go is liberating! Yes, it’s a process, but it starts as soon as you decide to find and release them. 

You Are the Ruler of Your Life

rule your life

One of the particularly insidious elements to our Should Stories. and how they keep you from creating your path, is that most of them keep us living small. We stay stuck in mundane and monotonous tasks or find ourselves overwhelmed trying to figure out how we’re supposed to be in the world. 

Next time you find one of your Should Stories ask, “Who told me I should?” and “Who benefits by my compliance?” The answer to these questions can be helpful in discovering the level of bullshit involved. Many times I find the underlying reason for the story was someone trying to maintain control -- either of me specifically or of a group. My rebel heart doesn’t do well with being controlled. 

Our Should Stories don’t just show up in our personal lives. They also show up in how we see our place in the world. Just because someone told you to doesn’t mean you have to. Instead of doing what you’re told, try doing what makes you happy!  

We can be free of these stories and others expectations of us. It takes some self-awareness and curiosity about where the stories come from. Next time you find yourself saying you “should” do something, ask yourself who told you that story. Where did it come from?

If you want more tips on breaking free and living courageously, check out this post

Letting Go of "Should" to Make Room for Joy

a life of fun

Engage your life and focus on what you love. Life is not a list of “should”s and tasks to be completed until you die. Take care of what you need to and let go of what doesn’t work for you. Have more fun with your time! Choose joy instead of “should”.

How nice would it be to ask yourself, “What do I want to do?” instead of “What should I do?” It’s such a small change, but it makes a huge difference in how we show up for ourselves! This question also allows you to create your path based on happiness instead of drudgery. 

Maybe it’s just me. I’m a rebel. I resist being told what to do by anyone! Choices and exploration are so much more enjoyable than taking orders. You probably feel the same way about it.

You have a choice. You always have a choice. Let the programming and expectations of others rule your days be the conscious creator of your life. The less we’re worried about what others think, the more free we are to choose what we love!

Life is Meant for Fun!

joy over should

If you choose to follow the “shoulds” out of habit, then you’ll keep putting someone else’s expectations before your own desires. You’ll continue to beat yourself over things that you don’t really care about. You’ll do those tasks grudgingly and without joy. No one wins. 

When you let go of shit that doesn’t work for you, you make room for all the good things you’ve been wanting. When your days are full of drudgery and mundane tasks, life is a drag. You feel stuck and unfulfilled. Fuck that. Life is supposed to be fun! 

Get out from under that shit! Stop shoulding all over yourself.

If you want some support in untangling and letting go of your Should Stories, I’m here for that. Schedule a free call and, together, we’ll get clear on where those stories are holding you back and how to set yourself free!

Use Your Voice

What are some of the Should Stories you tell yourself? Where did those stories come from? 

Join our online community and you’ll discover that you’re not alone in these stories. We all have them. <3

About the author 


Change Maker. Bold Explorer. Big Dreamer.

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