14: Silencing the “Should” Monster

14: Silencing the “Should” Monster

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less


Silencing the “Should” Monster

Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.

~Josh Billings

Women have it tough. Maybe it’s biological. Perhaps it’s just plain insanity. But women, in general, have this deep desire to be everything to everyone all the time. We want to be the fantastic wife, amazing mother, loving daughter, caring sister, dependable employee, and supportive friend. The list is endless and exhausting. Every single day, I am surrounded by amazingly smart, strong, and independent women who are “shoulding” themselves to death.

Let me explain.

We think we should be Superwoman. We should keep a sparkling clean house and cook dinner for our families every night. We should plan themed birthday parties for our kids with twenty of their closest friends. We should be community volunteers throughout the week and bring homemade dishes to church functions on Sunday. We should pick out the perfect baby/birthday/graduation/wedding gift and then attend all those events with smiles on our faces. And we should do it all without asking for help from anyone.

Is that realistic? Absolutely not.

But more importantly, it’s unhealthy.

Unrealistic expectations on our energy, time, and emotions can lead to anxiety, depression, guilt, and low self-esteem. Frazzled isn’t just a state of mind. It’s a reality. And it’s a reality that leaves us feeling physically exhausted, mentally drained, and emotionally unfulfilled.

As wives, mothers, daughters, and employees, we fight the “should” monster every day. Of course, there will always be things that must be done. But what about the things we don’t have to do? I don’t always have to do the grocery shopping. My husband can help with that. I don’t always have to go to the funeral of an acquaintance. I can send a card or flowers instead. I don’t have to pick out the perfect birthday gift for a niece or nephew because kids love gift cards too. I don’t have to bake a homemade dish for a church dinner when something from the grocery’s deli will be just as appreciated.

We have to learn to give ourselves a break.

And, if we don’t want to do something? It’s absolutely okay to say no.

Let me repeat that. It’s absolutely okay to say no. In fact, it’s a necessity, because the truth is we can’t do it all. We can’t. Not if we want to keep our sanity.

I went through a period a few years ago where I was dealing with anxiety issues, and a lot of it was caused by the fact that I was spreading myself too thin. I was always the dependable one. The reliable one. The first to volunteer for anything.

Why? Because I “should.”

While dealing with my anxiety, I spent some time with a therapist who asked me a question that still resonates with me to this day. During one of our sessions, I mentioned that I was dreading a particular event. She wondered why I was going if I felt this way.

My answer? “Because I should.”

My therapist looked at me and very simply asked, “Why should you do something you don’t want to do?”

I explained that while I didn’t want to go, I felt that it was expected of me. She said, “That’s why you’re dealing with anxiety. You’re trying to make everyone else happy. What about you? Are you happy? You can’t be, because you’re trying to juggle all the things you have to do with the things you feel like you should do. You have to start being a little selfish with your time. You have to learn to say no.”

I honestly couldn’t imagine such a thing. But I gave it a shot. I started saying no when it was possible, and you know what? The world didn’t spin off its axis.

Now, I do my best to silence the “should” monster by doing the things I want to do and politely declining the rest. I delegate as much as I can (my husband honestly loves grocery shopping). I volunteer for things because I want to and not because I feel obligated.

It’s not always easy, and I still struggle with feeling selfish from time to time, but I’m a happier, calmer person.

And that’s the way it should be.

~Sydney Logan


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