Shedding the Shoulds

CCM - Soul in the City

As I reflect on identity this month, I think of shedding the “shoulds” or beliefs that show up around where we should be, how we should act, how we should speak, and who we should be. What would it be like to lovingly acknowledge the shoulds and should nots that no longer serve us, drop the perfectionism, and instead recognize the shoulds that do? Not-Serving Shoulds might sound like:

I shouldn’t be struggling with this physical ailment.
I shouldn’t be suffering.
I shouldn’t have this bank balance.
I shouldn’t be questioning my ability.
I shouldn’t have to deal with this uncertainty.
I shouldn’t have taken this job.
I should be thinner.
I should be a better parent.
I should have a better boss.
I should be in a different relationship.
I should have a different life.
What would it be like to accept that we should be exactly where we are until we should be somewhere else?  What if we could relax the should of perfection?  Would you be willing to try this on: We are always growing, shedding and even tending to old shoulds, let’s give ourselves the gift of patience as we unfold and move through the complexity of life. 
Photo taken by Steph Cowling

Photo taken by Steph Cowling

Right now, I am contemplating how perhaps I should be nervous about my transition into a new job.  I don’t have evidence that it will absolutely work out, and nervousness is okay and totally naturally.  I wonder how I should be unsure of how to bring forth my larger vision, I’ve never done it before nor do I totally know how to do it.  I breathe in that perhaps I should feel mixed about my life in the city since so many complex experiences have happened during our time here.  
What shoulds make sense for you right now?  What would it be like to seek and feel compassion for these shoulds, and most importantly, for yourself? What examples do you have on how you should be exactly where you are?  How are the challenges of your life, perhaps your should nots, actually perfect for your own evolution? Which shoulds make up the story you want to tell about your life and which ones don’t?

I’d welcome your shoulds, should you choose to share.
Steph Head Shot
Steph Cowling is a graduate of Cosmic Cowgirls “Leading a Legendary Life” mentorship program. She currently works as a non-profit program coordinator in NYC providing advising to young people as they transition into college and career. While she has worked in education for the past ten years, Steph is currently focused on healing and deep self-care through growing her artist self, nurturing her love of writing, dancing, photography, and spiritual study. She is currently cultivating the soil for her bigger dreams of offering women’s mentorship and retreat programs. She lives with her partner and fur-baby in Brooklyn.

Author: Steph Cowling

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  1. “Should be a “New York Times” bestselling author by now”… which devolves to “if it’s to be it would have happened already. Failure.”

    Tune into how shoulds or should nots may serve as an accelerant for catastrophe.

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  2. Among many other words, the word “should” does not appear in the Lakota Sioux language. I have always wondered what it would be like to live without even having the concept. Great article, thanks.l

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  3. This is right where I am right now. Looking at what’s true, and being okay with it. Being open to it moving along and evolving, like everything does. I see how resistance keeps us stuck in machine patterns that are not even realistic, but which feel very true, and become truer every day that we are stuck in them.
    Also, I am experiencing the benefits of committed practice without attachment to outcome. That is FAITH. I let go of lots of shoulds “shed the shoulds” even flipped them the bird, in the wake of a major loss last year. The loss gave me room to try an experiment of living without them, with a focus on Faith and creativity for one year and to see what happens. I highly, highly recommend this experiment! For just one year! I joined Red Madonna, though I had never painted before and am 40 years old, a business owner, mother of two! I’m so proud of that, of making that decision!
    I’m at the anniversary, and signing on for another year of a creative spiritual practice being the center of my world. I am more of the things I want to be, by far, than one year ago.
    Even though I was afraid it would take away from my family, it is as I had hoped, having the opposite effect. My children see me as a real life living being with dreams and hard work and dedication, not a doormat, or some magical goddess who makes the sun rise and set( and so who is at fault for every discomfort). I feel really proud of that, too, because I feel like I am modeling my true values to them, values rooted in my deepest heart.
    Thanks a million Cosmic Cowgirls, and thanks for the article Stephanie!

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  4. Steph, you are amazing and you may like to know that nancy Kimberly at Gator Girl Art just finished a painting entitled Strength and Nancy’s blog about painting her and her strength and beauty and her inclusion of an Edith Wharton quotation made me totally visualize YOU as I read it. Now I’ll try to figure out how to connect that blog to you!

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