The power of 'should'

It’s the second month of a new year, which means most of us are staring longingly at the New Years resolutions we wrote only a few weeks ago, wondering how on earth the magic of a year passing hasn’t granted us all that we need to achieve our goals just yet. We still haven’t got the dream job, shifted the weight we’ve been taught to despise or fully completed our 30-day yoga challenge. The dread starts to sit in. The reality that this year will probably be an echo of the last & so on forth until we have kids that can do the same. Sound familiar?

Now stop. right. there. What you’re experiencing is not a reflection on what you have or have not achieved, what you’re experiencing is a reflection of the attitude you have towards yourself & your own standards. In this post, I want to talk more about 'should’s’, expectations we have of ourselves & how this relates to self-love.

Let start with ‘should’s’:

So what is a ‘should’ & why does it hold so much power? Well, by definition, ‘Should’ is used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticising someone's actions. So it’s an obligatory term, right? But what happens when that obligation isn’t met? I’ll tell you what happens - guilt.

“I should lose some weight” or “I should take the bins out” or “I should get this done” are all examples of ‘should’s’ that integrate into our daily lives without a second thought. However, they impact us so much more then we realise.

Each of these statements bares expectation for us as individuals in our day-to-day, meaning that if these tasks aren’t completed, we don’t feel as though we’ve done our bit. We haven’t achieved enough to pay our rent for being on this planet. But you have. No matter what you’ve done today, you have done enough. The guilt that comes as a result of this ironically only breeds unproductive, unhappy thoughts, feelings & behaviours & the cycle continues.

Should audits:

As a life coach, I love goal setting, I’m all about it. I love lists & milestones & plans galore. But you know what I also love? Existing. Breathing. Being. When we alleviate ourselves of the guilt this words bares & exercise self-compassion & patience, we actually allow ourselves to be more productive, not because we have to or our world will collapse, but because we are happy enough to. So challenge your ‘should’s’! You ‘should know how to drive by now’? Says who? You ‘should stop eating crap’? Why? Of course, these things are important, but if there is an option for it to not happen, then it probably means it won’t be the end of the world if it doesn’t. Conducting a ‘should audit’, as I call it, can be the first step in not only being more accepting of yourself, but it helps brings awareness to what you would actually like to work on too. Limit yourself to a certain amount of ‘should’s a day, or start by simply bringing awareness to ‘should’s' that you could leave out of your day.

In our culture, we also have a habit of associating certain ages with milestones & heavy expectations, like having a car by the time we’re 20, a life partner by the time we’re 30, kids by 35 & for what? For us to live mundane, over-structured lives? You are doing the world a service just by being alive & doing yourself a service by living in a fluid, organic fashion, at your own pace. You don’t owe any age or anyone any ‘achievement’.

Final thoughts:

Everything you feel about yourself or the point you’re at right now is a reflection of standards that society has put in place. Our ‘social ladders’ are nothing but a reflection of the guilt based advertising we experience daily, telling us to slightly improve one thing, but also indulge in another thing, whilst insisting that everyone else is improving, you guessed it another thing. To set your own standards & to learn to validate the space you are in RIGHT NOW is truly a radical act, but one that will support your growth & well being beyond belief.

I’ve said it once & I’ll say it again. You don’t owe the world anything.

Self-care: Channelling your inner Parent, Partner & Pal

Self-care; for me the term has always been way too broad.

When we think about self-care, each of us will think of different things. Most of us envision the fluffy, movie kind; you know with the candle-lit baths where the bubbles reach the ceiling, or things like spa days & face masks with cucumbers on our eyes & that’s not wrong. However for some of us, self-care is a tidy space, or an organised desk. The truth of it is that all of this is self-care.

For so long I sought something extra from relationships in my life, I wanted more.

More affection from my relationships, more validation from my friendships & more approval from my parents. What I came to realise is the expectations I had set for these people could all be met by myself. What I was actually searching for didn’t need to come from these people in my life, it needed to come from me. Friends, relationships & people in general were going to come & go in & out of my life, but the most sustainable source of self-love & care I could get would come from within. I’m lucky enough now amazing people fill all of these roles, I have great parents, my partner is fantastic & my friends are irreplaceable; but my inner love & support fills a hole that no-one else can & is almost inspired by the role these people played in my life.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life-time, it’s that sometimes if you want something, you’re only gonna get it from yourself. But learning which part of yourself to channel that from is a skill that will change your life forever. And that’s exactly what I’m going to teach you how to do!

(Disclaimer: although we may be able to tick all of our emotional boxes through ourselves, doesn’t always mean we should. Don’t go sacking off all of your connections all willy-nilly now! Use this as a tool to support yourself in the times you need it most, but can’t get it from those around you)

So lets start with your inner Partner:

Whether you’re single or in relationship, what is it you seek from this figure in your life? For me it was romance. It was mood lighting in the bedroom, being cooked dinner & having baths ran for me. Unfortunately, a string of mediocre relationships brought me to meet my inner girlfriend. Relationship or not, she will always be there. She takes me out for dinner, buys me roses every 2 weeks & when they start to die, she runs me a bath & sprinkles in the petals. It’s like I’m bathing in a reminder, a message that I love & cherish myself. But enough about me, how can you find yours? I recommend getting your journal out for this one; break it down into sections & think about what your dream partner brings to your life. Is it validation? Is it inanimate, like flowers & chocolates? Jot it down & reflect. See how you can bring this to your own life.

Next, your inner Parent:

Inspired by my mother & the marvel that she is, sometimes, I have to tune in to my inner parent. It’s all well & good bathing in flowers, chocolates & orgasms, but when you aren’t eating right, putting yourself to bed on time & taking your vitamins, are you really exercising good self-care? Channelling your inner parent can often mean implementing a level of discipline in your routine, as well as allowing yourself to have fun & feel validated. It’s as much about getting a full 8 hours sleep as it is wearing your nice pyjamas whilst you have it. My inner parent forcefully shuts the laptop when I’ve overworked myself, tells me when I’ve done really well & has that gut feeling about not-so-nice people.

Recently, I’ve started making my lunch & laying out my clothes the night before & leaving myself little notes around the house reminding me to have a great day, it’s ace.

(This section was so un-apologetically inspired by Laura Jane William’s book Icecream for Breakfast. In the book she talks about what she learned when she took a year out from writing to be a nanny, its so honest, funny & enlightening, I promise you won’t regret reading it.)

Finally, your inner Pal:

Now this one will be different for everyone. Friendships are so unique & bring a variety of emotions to our lives. But for me, my inner pal says “you look bomb as hell girl!” when I’m feeling a bit frumpy. She builds me up through supportive comments & gets me out of a funk. When we were younger, most of us had an imaginary friend. Psychological research has actually proven this to be really beneficial for the mind & well-being. Use your inner pal as your own company to go see that movie that no-one else wants to go & see. Use her as your side-kick through life’s ups & downs & to build you up when you need it. As I mentioned in the beginning, none of this should completely strike out your need for good friends in your life, but simply give you access to that support when you need it most & might not be able to get it.

I hope my big old brain dump has been enlightening for some of you. For those of you struggling to access these positive roles, it is a process. But that process starts by you knowing that you are worth all this care & more. You are worth the prince charming, the validation & all the support & comfort in the world. Dream up all that you could want to feel from these people & think of absolutely any way that you can access it from within. You are a marvellous being.

Abbie x