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I've just come off a phone call with my lovely mum, who I love dearly. She'll kill me for writing this, but that's why I am going to share our conversation with you, because I shouldn't!
Now rebellion and rule breaking don't come easily to me and our conversation will show you why.
Mum: Ooh, did you have to swear on your Facebook page?
Me: Mum, I only said sod. It's hardly bad.
Mum: But should you do that on your business page?
Me: Well, I am 42 and I think the ladies who read my page won't mind the word sod. I could swear my head off but I don't, because that's not me.
Mum: I know but it's a business page.
Me: Mum, there are coaches out there like Kat Loterzo and Leonie Dawson who swear like mad and are really successful because women love that they are real and don't hide their true communication style. I love that they are real. I'm not a big swearer, so I don't swear like that, but I do swear when I feel angry or passionate about something, so that's me being real to me. I never swear at or around you out of respect, but I don't think sod is that strong.
Now, bear in mind my mum can swear like a docker, if she's had two shandies, but she doesn't often swear in front of me and we do have a mutual respect. It's how I've been taught how we 'should' behave and I do like it that way. That mutual respect as mother and daughter. But she thinks I shouldn't swear here because that's my business and there is a rule that you don't swear in business, isn't there? (Erm Gordon Ramsey anyone?)
But this is where I also have come to realise over the years that in adopting roles, so in my family I am the 'good' one who NEVER swears and does the 'right' thing, we limit another side to us. We can feel uncomfortable and guilty if we don't behave the way we are expected to behave. I am naturally mischievous, ask any of my friends, ask my mum, but I always had in the back of my mind how I thought I should be, dependant on other people's idea of who I should be. This can lead to problems if you come up short sometimes. If I'm honest, it can still happen now. So, sorry mum if I have let you down in writing this. Alternatively, I hope you are actually proud that I am able to write it anyway to help other women see that doing what you should do all the time isn't helping you love yourself for who you are.
This doesn't just happen on a family level it translates at a society level. Buy a woman's magazine and you are swapped with images and articles of how we should look, live, eat, what we should drive, how we should bring up our children, run our businesses etc. etc. Who decides all these shoulds?
I did a Periscope broadcast on Monday and one of the shoulds I felt was really unfair on women was the need to be silky smooth at all times and how the constant need for hair removal to appear beautiful and appealing to men, and other women, was a mind numbing, non stop task of doom that I want to end. We decided we'd all grow beards and start a female hipster trend. LOL. This should is so deeply entrenched in us as women that I wouldn't dream of letting it all go and sport hairy arm pits in the middle of summer. But why? It's only hair and it's boring to have to remove it. The only people who win are the hair removal companies that make millions every year. Yet still I'd be hard pressed to stop that one for fear of social judgement. It's ridiculous I know. But it's a fact.
The shoulds. have you noticed, also change depending on what's in and what's not. So, a few years back you'd never see an Audi parked in the Aldi, now someone (who?) said it's ok to shop there and the car park is crawling with them.
Should you support the refugee crisis or should you support ex homeless servicemen? Could you support both? Novel idea, but I digress.
The top and bottom of it is, as I get older and meet more women who feel trapped in a cloak of guilt and resentment in these shoulds, you need to decide what actually matters to you and rid yourselves of the shoulds that don't help you.
Don't get me wrong I'm not proposing anarchy, that we can all go out tomorrow and freely start breaking laws and being as selfish as a selfish thing. What I am saying is that a lot of these shoulds have been propagated to make us buy lots of stuff, behave in a way that suits old fashioned work settings and keeps us all nicely in our roles, so no boats are ever rocked. I'm suggesting that in a bid to love yourself a bit more and not live in a guilt trapped existence, you think a bit harder about what the shoulds in your life are and change them to musts that work because you want them to. I'm saying make rules that work for you in your day to day. If you completely throw the rule book out then you have to accept there will be consequences.
Here's some tips on how to get clear on what matters to you:
1. List on a big piece of paper all the 'shoulds' you feel guilty about. They can be big like I should be with my kids all the time but I want to work or I gained a great education so I should work full time or small such as, I should tidy the garage out, or I should be on standby for my friends at all times.
2. Take a big, red marker and cross out the 'shoulds' that don't really matter to you in the grand scheme of things or that are actually causing you pain or problems. For example, if you are on constant standby for your friends you might not plan things so you are available at their convenience or you drop things, to the detriment of you, on a regular basis leaving you feeling exhausted.
3. What's left? Why are they important to you? What is it that is important in them for you? For example, if I should continue hair removal stays that's ok, but know why you are doing it. They are now musts because they are important to you.
4. Take action towards the things that you have identified as most important. This may take time. You will have to go against years of conditioning and like the hair removal example, some you may be simply unwilling to give up on. If, 'I should have a beautiful home' is important to you, because it makes you feel peaceful, secure and proud, then take daily steps to make it that way as it will empower you and make you feel excited that you are doing what you want to do for you and no one else. But change the should to a must, because it's you that's decided it is important, not a magazine.
5. Let go of the things that don't matter to you. Release the guilt of not doing them. If they don't matter to you, why keep doing it to please everyone else, to impress everyone else, to meet everyone else's idea of what your life should be like?
Sod the 'shoulds'. Who says you 'should'?
I'd love to hear of the shoulds that you drew a line through and the ones you turned into musts.