Have you ever noticed yourself should-ing?
- I should be thinner
- I should have more money
- I should be more assertive
Why do we “should”?
We “should” because we want to embody a vision of ourselves that is greater than our reality. Professor E. Tory Higgins described two different “better” versions of ourselves:
- The Ideal Self. This is who YOU would love to become. Here you have all that is labeled selfish: travel around the world, paint, dance, etc. The ideal self doesn’t cater to social conventions. It’s centered on your desires.
- The Ought Self. This is who THEY expect you to become. This self is built by our perception of the expectations of the establishment.
As our most basic need is to belong, we start “should-ing,” going after the Ought Self. We need to please mom to receive a hug. We need to please dad to play with him. Our first instinct is to please “them”: family, school, government, etc. Of course, this drives us crazy, as “they” don’t totally agree on what we “should” be doing. Anyhow we try and in the process anxiety, fear, and personal inadequacy are our daily feelings – no matter how “successful” we become. (More on Perfectionism)
Pursuing my Ought Self led me to study IT. I thought I would please my dad. This study had loads of math, in other words the proof that I was intelligent, that he did a good job as a dad. I would please my mom. They got divorced around that time. He was a civil engineer. I actually wanted to study architecture. If I did so, I would hurt her, so IT was a great way to please her, too.
The chase of the Ought Self was plagued by fear, anxiety, feelings of personal inadequacy, and loneliness. I spent my time strategizing what they wanted me to do, to say, to wear, to be. It was exhausting. I didn’t please anyone. Most importantly I was not pleased.
Chasing after my Ought Self, I lost myself. I can tell you I’m not the only one. Wherever I go, I find more and more people who tell me exactly the same story of being so “good,” “should-ing” themselves to “success.”
From Should be Good to Should be Me
Once you get really close to the Ought Self, the desire to become who you really want, who your soul is asking you to become, is inevitable. In the moment when you discover that being so “nice” has emptied your soul, a new journey starts. Unhappiness, disappointment, and – most telling – self-dislike are powerful symptoms that indicate a huge gap between your actual self and your Ideal self.
Deeply feeling this self-dislike was my lifesaver. One good Sunday, during my period of “should-ing” into my Ought Self, I listed all I love to do in life: painting, public speaking, beauty, meaningful conversations, and more. I reflected on how much of this was then present in my life.
That was the wake up call to let go of pleasing others. If I didn’t stop, I would die. In that moment of pain I realized that being selfish is actually the most charitable thing you can do. If I don’t do what I love, I am unable to contribute to the world.
I “should” become me. I “should” chase after my Ideal Self, my dream, what would truly make me happy.
Oh! I started should-ing again! I still “should” sometimes. However when I close the gap between my actual self and my Ideal Self, it feels wonderful. I feel whole, excited, ALIVE!
Should-ing towards your Ideal Self is still painful and inefficient, because it assumes difference.
Are you ready for the antidote to should-ing?
Think about it. There will always be a gap between who you are now and who you aspire to be. However, who you are right now is perfect. Who you are, where you are, and what you do are the perfect combination to create that ideal you.
Appreciating who you are, where you are, and what you do has tremendous power. It makes your Ideal Self real and current. Unhappiness, disappointment, and self-dislike will melt away.
When you truly embrace that what happens is the best that happens, you don’t need to waste any more energy should-ing. Embracing the perfection of the moment will allow you to make better decisions. You have the clarity to choose the next steps.
Use your Ideal Self as a source of inspiration, not pain. When you are about to decide on something, consider: will this expand me in the direction of my dreams?
Life is about growth, learning, expansion. Making peace with the eternal gap between where we are and where we want to be is fundamental to closing it. In fact, making peace with the gap closes it.
Embrace your perfection. Know it is all perfect. From that knowing reflect on your next step. Identify it and take action. Remember success loves speed. Act now.
I hope this article helps you close that gap and reduced nasty feelings. If you want to take it to the next level, I’ve created a meditation to let you reach this level of awareness. The only thing you need to do to have this meditation is to answer the following questions in the comments below:
Who is your ideal self? What is her or his superpower?
What does he or she create/heal/change?
Thank you very much for reading, commenting, and sharing.
I wish you a terrific week, full of appreciation for your current, perfect YOU.