There’s one word in the English language that I really dislike. I just hate saying it, because it takes away my zest for life. It reminds me of being admonished as a child. I really don’t like it when I hear other people saying it, either, because I see how it drains them of their enthusiasm. That word is “should.”
“I really should do the laundry today,” I hear myself say when what I really want to do is take a nap. “I should go to Susie’s party because she asked me to, even though I’d rather go shopping. I should take Dan’s shift this weekend even though I was planning to go camping. I should let Jan borrow my car even though I know she’s a reckless driver.”
Whenever we say the word “should,” we are giving up our power of choice, which means we’re giving up our freedom-and giving up the energy we have inside us that could be helping us to heal. We’re basically saying, “Okay, I’m going to live by other people’s rules, and ignore what my heart wants. I’m going to do what others think I should do, putting my own desires last.”
You know how you feel inside when “should” comes out of your mouth, right? It’s like a collar comes down around your neck attached to a leash, and the other end is held by whomever is glaring at you in your mind and telling you what you “should” be doing. That other person is most certainly not you.
That “should” word comes from when we were kids-you “shouldn’t” do that; you “should” do this, etc. It’s so limiting. We take that echo with us into adulthood, and we keep listening to it long after we’re old enough to make our own choices, depriving ourselves of the freedom of steering our own ship. Worse, when we’re fighting an illness like cancer, filling our heads with “shoulds” leaves our bodies depleted of healing energy.
How much better it feels when we say, “I choose to do the laundry today because I want to have clean clothes tomorrow.” Same decision, but made with so much more power! “I choose to go to Susie’s party because I said I would, but next time I will be more conscious about my commitments.”
Cancer puts us into a whole new world of “shoulds.” Here are just some of the things we tell ourselves:
- I should be feeling better. It’s my fifth day after chemo.
- I should be stronger than I am. People are going to think I’m a baby.
- I shouldn’t be letting this bother me so much. I mean, lots of people have cancer.
- I should get up today and get the house cleaned. What will my family think?
- I should be healthier than this. How could this happen?
And on and on. All these “shoulds” are poisonous to our hearts. One, they make us feel chained to some action we’d rather not take, sapping our energy. Two, they make us betray ourselves, by making us deaf to our true desires and feelings.
If you’re trapped in a world of shoulds-or even the next time you hear yourself using the word-consider replacing it with “choose” instead. Like this:
- I choose to feel how I feel, and listen to my body.
- I choose to respect my own needs. What others think is none of my business.
- I choose to respect my own experience, and cope with this disease the best way I can.
- I choose to clean the house today, because I think it will make me feel better.
- I choose to make healthy choices for myself from now on.
Have you tried replacing your “shoulds” with choices? Please share your thoughts.
Photo courtesy neelab via Flickr.com.