It’s time to get personal. I had to. With myself. You see, for the longest time I was making decisions based on “shoulds” and, though it took me a while, I learned that those “shoulds” were clouding my ability to truly understand myself. The “shoulds” were standing in the way of me truly being happy.
“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” ~Maya Angelou
Looking back, “should” and the guilt that lives with it, has always been a powerful force in my life. I can now recognize that so many of the decisions I was making were out of fear, guilt and pressure to live my life a certain way. You know, the way you are supposed to. Go to college, get married, have a baby…and those are the basics.
Growing up, my main goal was to please everyone. The mere thought of “rocking the boat” scared the shit out of me. I wanted to be perfect. I wanted everyone to be proud of me. I wanted everyone to like me. The problem is, I rarely liked myself. I was so busy trying to be what I thought everyone wanted me to be, that I lost touch with who I really was. I was searching for happiness in accomplishments, relationships, books, ideas…you name it. The problem was, I was so consumed with the “shoulds” that I wasn’t listening to myself and at this point, even if I wanted to listen to myself, my confidence was so wounded I probably would not have trusted what I was saying.
The shit hit the fan when I had my son, Hudson. I crashed and burned in every way. The pressure to be a perfect mom really pushed me over the edge. Add to that that I was in an unhealthy relationship…I was working too much (I went back to work when my son was 5 days old–whatt!!???) and, I was having such a hard time being a new mom because I didn’t trust myself. Some were big and some were small, but the “shoulds” were suffocating me.
I should have Hudson on a schedule
He should sleep this many hours
He should take “x” number of naps
I shouldn’t rock him to sleep
I should be home more
I should work more
I should breastfeed longer
I should keep the store open, if I close my store, that would mean I was a failure (I had a cafe at the time)
I shouldn’t leave my husband, we have a baby. Who does that?
I should love him (my husband) more, that will fix it. I should try harder.
I shouldn’t get divorced, I said “til death do us part”.
I shouldn’t do x, y or z because my parents will be upset with me.
I was so unhappy. So anxious. So outside of myself. I hit rock bottom and it felt like a deep, dark hole that was impossible to escape. But, I did.
I have used this quote before and I will use it again, “Out of crisis, comes clarity”. I had a revelation.
I deserve to be happy!
I have one go at this thing called life and it’s mine. I am not going to waste it on “shoulds”.
I know, we all want to be happy. The difference is, for the first time in forever, I truly believed it. I owed it to myself. I owed it to my son. I was not sure how I was going to get from here (dark hole) to there (happiness), but I knew where to start.
I abandoned the “shoulds”, the fear and the guilt and I dug really deep. I decided to listen…to myself (instead of everything and everyone else). I decided to trust my instincts. I made a list. A list of wants (you know, the things that set your soul on fire). I am not talking about cars and houses and material stuff. I am talking about experiences, feelings and everyday joy.
I also made a list of changes that I knew I needed to make regardless of what other people would think. Some were literal and some were more global. Please note that these decisions were not made in haste. I was and continue to be conscious of the impact my decisions will have on other people, but, I was including my own feelings in that equation for the first time. It went something like this:
- I will let go of work commitments that are toxic
- I do not have to stay in an unhealthy relationship, even if I love the person and it may be a difficult transition. We both deserve to be happy.
- I am going to set boundaries.
- I will learn to say no.
- I am going to avoid toxic energy
- I am going to be more grateful
- I am going to be the mom I want to be instead of the mom everyone thinks I “should” be
- I am going to make decisions that feel right to me instead of making decisions that please everyone else.
Change is scary. Old habits die hard. I would be lying if I said it was easy.
While it may not have been easy it was so damn liberating. I remember the moment I decided to close the store. It felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. I trusted my instincts and man, it felt good. This one decision became a powerful springboard. It gave me courage. Little by little I began to make decisions that felt right for me. It became easier and then something magical happened. I loved myself a little more each day. I respected myself a lot more each day. I trusted myself for the first time in a long time.
Now, four years later, I am a new person. Correction, I am myself, truly. I love myself. I trust myself. I am comfortable taking chances and challenging the norm. I trust my own compass. I am a confident mother. I am in a full, loving relationship and I am getting married but it is different this time. I am not getting married because I should. I am not getting married because I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I am getting married because I have a true partner and a relationship that feels equal and full of love and every cell in my body confirms that.
I have changed many aspects of my business to get rid of the things I don’t enjoy and focus on the aspects of my career that fill me up. Amazingly, the more I let go of the more space I create for the things I love and the universe seems to hear me. I prioritize my family over my career. I live my life in a way that feels authentic to me, regardless of what others may think.
Please don’t misinterpret this as self-indulgent behavior. It is far from it. The “pleaser” in me still has a hard time disappointing other people. But, I am clear in the fact that I will no longer compromise my own happiness for someone else’s expectations of what I “should” do or the way my life “should” be. The same goes for that voice in my head that so desperately wants me to be the “perfect” everything. Instead, I celebrate my perfect imperfections, the lessons I have learned and those that I continue to learn each day. I revel in the strength and confidence I have found in myself.
Lastly, I am mindful of my own expectations of others. I try to live with compassion and patience as I cannot expect others to live their lives or react to my decisions in a way that I think they “should”.
It’s a work in progress. We all are. I am far from perfect and that is okay.
My challenge to you? Make a list. Consider what you want and what may need to change. Take a chance. Abandon the “shoulds”. Make one decision that truly speaks to you.