‘Should’ is a toxic word taking over our everyday vocabulary

It is causing us unnecessary stress and anxiety and is holding us back from our passions.

One day it hit me — I was living a ‘should’ life.

I spent a majority of my time, mental energy, and physical energy doing things that, I had suddenly realized, I did not want to do. I did not enjoy them. I was not fulfilled by the things I was contributing to the world and the people around me. I constantly felt myself stressed and anxious and desparately missing the burning passion in my soul that I had always valued so highly in myself and in my pursuits. I had not realized this at the time, but, over the years, the growing momentum of working through this strain had weighed down on my shoulders, had weighed down on my soul and my mind. Only in reflection, with time and perspective, did I understand the weight of this burden.

How did I let this happen?

I thought and reflected and wondered and it came to me:

The word ‘should’ had taken over my life. And, when I took some time to reflect, even further I realized that I had been living a ‘should’ life for many, long years.

I realized that living a life based on what I ‘should’ be doing had brought me several important issues:

1. For years, I had been pursuing things that I believed I should be pursuing — certain studies in school, certain jobs and skills, certain parts of my lifestyle — rather than things I wanted to pursue because they would bring me satisfaction.

2. I had somehow been able to convince myself that I wanted to be doing these things and had neglected the things I truly enjoyed and valued and wanted.

3. As a result, I now found myself in a place in life far from where I wanted to be or ever thought I would be.

4. I was severely at risk of sacrificing my mental health, my happiness, and my sense of fulfillment in the process.

Social media and social pressures and social stigmas had subconsciously steered my decisions, funneled me down a path that, in retrospect, completely surprised me. I know my interests; I know what makes me happy and feel fulfilled — writing and reading and stories and people and discovery and imagination. Yet, somehow, these did not seem important to me for many years, while I began doing things that should be good for me, working in places that should make me successful and happy, spending my time and energy creating things that should steer my passions, that should make me proud.

Because other people, the people who had been around me at the time, would have felt these things. So I should too.

I didn’t.

Upon this realization, I have been working to make the changes necessary to minimize the use of the word ‘should’ in my daily life and in my decision-making process.

I am realigning my time so prioritize, not the things that should be important to me, but the things that are important to me.

I strongly encourage you to do the same.

Take the time- for an hour or a day or whatever you feel necessary- and listen for the word ‘should’ in your natural conversation. Tell your friends or family or significant other to listen for it when you speak to them and to count the times you say it.

Then listen and reflect on the context in which you tend to use the word. Think about what this means.

Consider that you may be living a ‘should’ life.

And work to change this if you are.

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