What should you be doing today?
I’m not even going to list all the things I “should” be doing.
But that’s not what I want to talk about anyway, what I want to talk to you about is how you feel about what you “should” be doing.
Everyone loves to tell everyone what they should be doing, feeling and thinking and equally what they shouldn’t.
It’s no wonder that people take it to heart.
There are so many cliched quotes online against pretty backgrounds that tell you to follow your heart, walk your own path or don’t let other people drag you down.
If it were that simple, anyone could be happy.
The problem is that all of the messages you receive, be them from well-meaning family members, TV ads or social media will influence your thoughts and your behaviour.
This is because they become your thoughts, you internalise them.
Internalising what other people think and expect has a seriously important job to do in our social development.
Its how children know not to blurt out inappropriate things and how you know to behave at work or at a party.
You internalise what is normal and then essentially you practice it.
Maybe you have heard of socialisation, well that’s internalising, societies norms, expectations and rules so that we can live cooperatively with other people.
The problem is that in our social media obsessed 24/7 world, we are constantly being bombarded with information about what we should be doing.
That can become toxic for our mental health.
And a lot of what we are told isn’t for our benefit but to sell a product or fit somebody else’s idea of what they want in a partner, friend, employee, etc.
One of the shoulds I hear is that I “should” travel. The fact that I might have reasons for not traveling always seems to come second to what society seems to think I “should” do.
For a lot of millennials that adds a lot of pressure, unnecessarily.
I read an article this week about a twitter debate about a manager who won’t hire a candidate if they don’t send a thank you email after an interview.
It’s not good enough that the candidate, dressed appropriately, was professional and probably worked really hard to make a good impression if they didn’t read that managers mind and do exactly what she wanted, they weren’t good enough.
It’s not really all that hard to see why everyone is so anxious all the time, is it?
The psychologist Albert Ellis says that people need to stop “shoulding” on themselves and others.
What he meant was that your telling yourself that you should be doing X or should have done Y all the time is what’s making you miserable.
When you do that you end up ruminating and feeling angry, guilty, and anxious.
Everything seems so much worse than it probably is.
And if you do it regularly, then you just end up feeling awful all the time.
Let me ask you, has ruminating on whatever it is you should have done/ be doing ever made anything better?
Every told anyone what they should be doing and they didn’t listen, maybe they did the right thing?
When I’m “shoulding” on myself here’s what I try to do.
- I make deals with myself like I can watch one more episode of Riverdale but then I have to do 45 minutes of work.
- I tell myself that I work incredibly hard and if today I need a rest then that’s the only thing I should be doing.
- If I’ve made a mistake and I’m telling myself what I “should” have done, I remind myself that the decision I made at the time, I did so with the information I had at the time.
- I do my best to let it go.
Notice I didn’t say what I do, rather what I try to do, because I’m human and so are you.
Until next time,
If you want to know more, here is a list of articles I read while writing this post.
- The Albert Ellis Institute
- Feeling Angry or Guilty? Maybe it’s Time to Stop “Shoulding!”
- Stop “Shoulding” Yourself to Death
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