Do you have a list of Shoulds? Things that pile on and weigh you down, nagging you, or keeping you feeling unsettled and diminished, like you are never enough?

I’ve been giving myself permission to release my “Shoulds.” Shoulds  that started from such a young age – when we learn how we think we should feel, look, act, behave.

I was always slightly envious of the rebellious types I saw growing up and in my 20s.

Those badasses who didn’t really seem to care how they “Should” be… Of course I have no idea what was going on for them on the inside, but I perceived them as free. Certainly more “free” that I felt, that’s for sure.

A sample of my list of “Shoulds” through my teens and 20s:

I should be a straight A student

I should stop caring about my marks and be a free spirit

I should be cooler (I was “in-between” cool-enough but not as cool as the really cool girls)

I should be thinner

I should achieve more, be more accomplished

I should create more change in the world

I should travel more

I should be more confident in my body and a better lover

I should be less uptight and more crazy

I should be a more committed partner

I should be more independent

I was plagued by Shoulds, and often stuck between competing Shoulds! (yep, my Shoulds were obviously very influenced by what others thought, aka my parents, my friends, “society,” activist groups I was a part of)

It’s no surprise that I often felt pulled in completely different directions. Perhaps even less surprising was that as my 20s progressed, I was using alcohol even MORE to turn off the Shoulds. To take a break.

As I was struggling in a newish partnership that would then become a marriage (and later a divorce… a story for another day) I started seeing a really wonderful therapist and energy worker.

My drinking had become an issue in my relationship. My partner was upset that I would “check out” ie completely vacate after a certain number of drinks. She would say “I’m looking in your eyes and Caitlin isn’t there anymore.”

This kind of freaked me out. I didn’t want alcohol to have this hold on me, to change me so much, and hearing this from someone who loved me shook me to my core.

My new therapist challenged me to stop drinking completely. “While you are doing this very important work,” she said “try not to let alcohol get in the way.

She also said this: “You need to start giving yourself permission to relax. Permission to just be with yourself. Permission to be you. Permission to stop doing. You have my permission Caitlin.

I’m pretty sure I started crying at this point. Relief. Overwhelmed. Fear of actually trying to do it and what I would feel like.

This marked the beginning of my first 1.5 years of sobriety (what happened after that time is another story for another day).

It was also the first time I really understood how I was using alcohol as an escape, the way others may use drugs, food, sugar, and other co-dependences to turn off the pressure for a blissful series of moments.

So began the long process of trying to disentangle my Shoulds. The layers of expectations and sense of obligation that had piled on over the years.

The process continues, to this day. It’s not easy, this work of become more of me, and less of what everyone else thinks I should be. It goes even deeper than that. Sometimes the real work is about understanding my own expectations of myself and why I continue put pressure on myself to be a certain way.

It happened again last week. On Wednesday I received some challenging news regarding my health. Thursday was a following up visit with a specialist. In between, all I wanted to do was curl up in bed, chat with some of my closest friends and Skype with my boyfriend. And mostly, that is what I did. That, and random dance parties in my kitchen, naps, an episode of the amazing race Canada, and reading random passages from the stack of books by my bed.

However, I had a nagging voice telling me to “get it together.” I Should snap out of it. I Should write and send my blog. I Should never miss a weekly blog. I Should be transparent and transform this experience (the bad news I received) into a shareable story for my readers. I Should be writing more! I Should be published already! This on top of all the very personal Shoulds related to how I Should be dealing with this experience.

Holy S**T my Shoulds started spiraling. Can you relate to this experience FNAME?

What would you have done in this instance?

I decided to rebel against my inner Shoulds. I ignored them. I told my Shoulds to shut up. Told them to take a back seat to Self Care. To Connection. To Stillness. This weekend I want you to give yourself permission to dismiss your Shoulds. Or at least spend some time unpacking them… Where does this Should come from? Is it self-imposed, or stemming from a story you’ve told yourself, an internalized belief or external pressure from the Shoulds we adopt from friends and family. Does this Should come from a place of obligation, or an actual desire that lights you up?

If you notice a friend or family member getting trapped or immobilized by their Shoulds, help them take a break too. Should you? Do you really have to? Why? Where does this Should come from? Is there another way?

I wish you all lightness this weekend, and freedom from any obligation that isn’t directly related to either a need or necessity, or a burning desire.

What Shoulds will you be releasing? I’d love to hear in the comments. If you’d like to have a chat about your Shoulds and how to let go, feel free to get in touch by clicking here.