The Dirty S Word
I made this amazing girl friend while I lived in Peru. Her name is Rachel and she is a wild, worldly, take-no-bullshit kinda woman. She and I used to have regular lunch dates. We were both on tight budgets so we’d either eat at my apartment, cobbling together a big salad, bread, cheese, and eggs or beans or we’d go to to our favorite local hole-in-the-wall that served a $2.30 set lunch.
We would linger over these meals and although the food was basic the time felt luxurious. Our conversations would cover everything, trading lots of stories about family and relationships and growing up and sex and always a little consoling each other about the challenges of living as ex-pats in Lima.
This woman taught me a lot and I am forever grateful to have had her in my life. One lesson that will forever be imprinted on me is when she reprimanded me for saying “should”.
I have no recollection of what I was even talking about in that moment but here was Rachel telling me that
“should is a dirty word.”
She went on to tell me that it’s a shame word, you are ashamed that you are or you aren’t doing something.
To tell you the truth, at first I really didn’t get it. I saw should as a motivational word, “I should do more of this or less of that!”
Over time though it started to sink in and really resonate with me. Why ‘should’ when you can do it or not do it?
I started to see how “should’s” set us up for failure, shame, and/or guilt.
I used to live with many “should’s” every day.
“I should exercise everyday.”
“I should eat every 3-5 hours.”
“I should call my parents and grandparents at least once a week.”
“I should eat only the cleanest, most wholesome food possible.”
“I should stop eating sugar.”
“I should lose 5 pounds.”
“I should eat protein at every meal.”
“I should eat only whole grains, no processed ones.”
“I should practice yoga everyday.”
“I should drink less coffee.”
“I should do a cleanse.”
“I should wait at least three hours after my last meal to eat again.”
“I should keep better track of my spending.”
“I should blog 3-5 times a week.”
“I should work more.”
“I should take a multivitamin every day.”
“I should eat only one or two ‘servings’.”
Do I sound neurotic enough yet?
I also know that I am not unique in living with made up rules that I tell myself I “should” abide by.
What happens when we fall short though? What happens when we tell ourselves we “should” but we don’t? For me it causes stress and anxiety and a feeling of falling short.
Rachel’s words popped into my head every time I said “should”, either to myself or out-loud, for a long time and slowly, over the last 2-3 years I’ve thrown every one of those “should’s” out the window.
Many of those “I should’s” have been replaced by “I will’s”…
“I will exercise regularly.”
“I will feed myself when I’m hungry.”
“I will stop eating before full, sometimes that means half a ‘serving’, sometimes that means three and sometimes that means I’ll want to eat again in an hour.”
“I will enjoy being slow and lazy and unproductive if that’s what my body and mind want in that moment.”
“I will harness my creative energy when it’s abundant and not feel guilty or bad when it’s not.”
“I will nourish my body with good, clean, nutritious food much of the time because that’s what makes it feel good and healthy but I won’t be concerned in the least if my diet is less than balanced sometimes, as long as I am eating consciously.”
Today I did two things that the old “should-shaming” self would have felt like I really shouldn’t have; I stayed in bed until 10:30am and I ate chips and salsa for lunch at 11:45am because I was hungry, it was fast, and sounded good (a mere 2 hours after breakfast!).
What “I should’s” do you live with everyday? What “I will’s” do you live with?