You're Should-ing All Over Yourself
A few months ago I read the book "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz. It's a great book, that talks about the "agreements" that we all make with ourselves, and how they shape our lives. Things like, "I'm good at this", "I'm bad at that", "I could never do that", "I need this a certain way to be happy", etc. These agreements can be found in everything, from how we feel and think about ourselves, to how we show up in the world, to how we expect the world to be. Much of the book focuses on how many of these agreements, especially the more negative ones, hold us back and keep us from living full, authentic, happy lives. In some ways, I think the message can be boiled down to, we are "should-ing all over ourselves".
I am not talking about those countless little day to day ways that we go against how we really feel, by listening to our should's and supposed to's. Things like "I don't want to spend $800 on my 5 year old's birthday party, but I really SHOULD, all of the other kids get big parties"; "I'm SUPPOSED to go to book club but I really just want to stay home"; or in my case "I SHOULD date but I would rather chew tinfoil".
I am also not suggesting ignoring important rules or obligations. Chores do need to get done. Most of us need to go to work and make a living. In order to function in civilized society there are should's and supposed to's that we can't ignore. We are supposed to stop at red lights. That one is kind of important. Though you don't have to. (I once had a therapist explain that technically you don't HAVE to do anything. There are consequences if you don't do certain things, but you don't HAVE to do them... Discuss amongst yourselves.)
What I am talking about are the big agreements that drive our beliefs about who we are and how things must be. "This is who I am supposed to be." "I'm the good girl, or the bad boy so I can't do that." "Success/happiness/love looks and feels like this, and if it doesn't then it can't be." "This is who I am, and what I am about, because it is what I have always thought myself to be." And worst of all, "I believe this is what everyone knows and expects of me, so I have to stay this way." We all need to define ourselves, but when you come to a place in life where things just aren't working, and/or you know you need to change something in order to find real happiness, then you have to stop "should-ing all over yourself".
I stopped and it changed my life. I broke the agreement I had with myself that I was supposed to, and expected to, stay married forever no matter how unhappy I was. By finding the courage to drop all of the should's and supposed to's, I gave myself the chance to create an authentic, happy life for myself. Don't get me wrong, it hasn't been easy and I'm not there yet, but I know it is going to be worth it. And just think, had I not taken this leap, the EX wouldn't have been able to become Angelina Jolie, which I'm pretty sure broke at least 127 agreements he had with himself. Look at how I expanded his world without even intending to! Dear EX, you're welcome.
NOTE: I am NOT advocating or encouraging divorce. This is just an example of one of the major ways I have broken old agreements.
I have stopped "should-ing all over myself" in many ways both large and small, and I can assure you that this is an area where size does NOT matter. Acknowledging that one of your agreements isn't working anymore, that a core belief you have always lived your life by or defined yourself with is no longer serving you, is incredibly unsettling no matter the size. Letting it go is absolutely terrifying. It's confusing, and it requires you to venture into uncomfortable, unchartered territory within and outside of yourself. But like the saying goes, "anything worth having is worth fighting for". If you really want change, then don't let the fear and discomfort stop you. Because there is a really good chance that great love and happiness are waiting for you on the other side.