— This post first appeared in my email letter. If you’d like to sign up so you don’t miss future letters, you can do that here. —
I’ve been quiet lately. I’ve been turning inward these past few weeks. I’ve been feeling really burnt out by all the busy-ness in my life and my business, the seemingly endless stream of tasks to get done. I’m not going to tell you too much more about that here because I’ve already spoken about it over on Instagram and on my blog. However, I do want to share with you what I’m doing about it.
But first, a story of “should”. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately – what I learned and believe that I “should” do or “should” be in my life. This is a theme I explore deeply in my self-study course Embrace as one of the foundational ways for working with your inner child. Here are some of my “should”s. Maybe some of these are familiar to you:
- I “should” work hard and full time
- I “should” be productive all of the time in order to be worthy of my joy
- I “should” be thin and fit
- I “should” post on Instagram regularly, create free content for my followers and audience, and continuously offer that abundantly
- I “should” value “success” and “financial abundance” highly, sometimes more than my own happiness
Are any of these familiar to you?
Those feel uncomfortable to write, to share, because I so desperately don’t want to believe those things. But I do. I’ve fully bought into these capitalist and patriarchal mindsets. While some of these might land for you too, your list might look completely different from mine. It’s actually an incredibly helpful exercise to write them down, to make a list of all your “shoulds” so you can begin to see them for what they are – as separate from you, beliefs that you don’t necessarily need to hold onto anymore.
When I see my “shoulds” outlined like this, I am able to start to contemplate what I would like to believe instead. Throughout this time of feeling pretty burnt out, this has been an almost daily check-in with myself. Moment by moment, I catch myself thinking I “should” be producing, working, striving, pushing. And I easily slide back into that. There is something deeply comfortable and familiar about this paradigm and way of being.
I don’t want that for myself anymore. Sure, there will be times when I do need to produce, work, strive and push. But when that isn’t absolutely necessary, can I create a little more space instead? Can I believe that I don’t have to do those things, that I can go slower, focus more on happiness and joy and space and calm and just slowing down enough to notice the dappled summer light on the rustling oak leaves outside…
As a kid, I would be able to turn the pages of a book for hours on end, riveted by the story unfolding inside. Now it is so hard for me to stay focused on the words on the page without thinking I “should” be doing something else. When did this happen? How did I let go of joy like this? We are socialized and taught to conform to these unrealistic expectations of our Western society. No wonder we are all so tired, overwhelmed, anxious and exhausted.
Sometimes I feel like a broken record, like I’m always talking about this. But that’s because it is a practice that so many of us need to engage in, each and every day, over and over again. I strip back a layer or two, make some progress, and then realize there is another belief or barrier to overcome. And it feels like starting over, but it’s all progress. It is all progress.
Right now, I’m questioning the ways I’ve set up my work day. Instead of forcing myself to sit down at my desk from 9-3 every day, like I used to, and scheduling every moment of my day between those hours, I’m trying to listen to what my body needs more. I’m allowing myself to take a break to move my body in the middle of the day. I’m giving myself permission to start later if I need to. I held this narrative that I “should” keep work between set hours for that work-life balance we are all striving for… but it just meant I ended up punishing myself for wanting to work outside of those hours rather than seizing my natural creativity in those moments. What if I let my body and mind work when it wanted to work rather than conforming to an external structure I’ve imposed upon myself?
I’m squirming just thinking about it.
But I have to try. I have to try something, anything. I have to keep throwing spaghetti at the wall until it sticks. And you do too. For whatever the equivalent is for you. We get stuck in these ruts of accepting what is. But I’m not willing to accept burn out, exhaustion and unhappiness. So I’ll be over here trying a million different things every week to make this all feel better – working less, switching hours, slowing down, taking more breaks, moving my body more, taking a day off here and there just because, cutting myself some slack, breaking old habits, scrapping my Instagram posting schedule, burning it down, building it up, failing, falling, stumbling, growing…
I’ll keep throwing these damn noodles at the wall until something sticks.
What do you need be different in your life? Name it out loud. Own it. That’s the first step. I read and reply to every single comment you write so share it below. And truly, I would love to know.