By Twila Albrecht
My sophomore year of college, I was crippled with social anxiety and a calendar full of activities and due dates. Eventually, I lugged my way over to the campus counselor’s office. In one of our conversations, the counselor invited me to remove the word ‘should’ from my vocabulary. To this day, I feel empowered by the gift of that invitation. Here’s why removing the S-word has been an important practice for me:
- I’m challenged to think about the way I communicate with myself and others. I find that when I remove the S-word, I’m forced to reframe what it is that I want or need, or what it is that is inhibiting me from moving forward. By naming any underlying assumptions in a ‘should statement’, I can remain open to more than one way of thinking or responding in any given situation. When I’m conscious about my language, it changes the way I act in the world.
- I’m empowered to stay in the present moment. I’m no English teacher, but it strikes me that ‘should’ is used in both past tense and present future. When I remove the demands of what I should be doing, or how I should have responded, I am encouraged to stay in the present moment, noticing where my attention is and choosing to act from there.
- I’m allowed to choose me. Rather than using guilt, shame, or regret as a (harmful) motivator, I can choose how to spend my time and energy, and therefore be more present when I do need to give time to others.
Of course this is something I’ll always be practicing. When the ‘shoulds’ come screeching, I turn to the Presencing Institute’s guided journaling practice. Presencing Institute defines ‘presencing’ as “the capacity to connect to the deepest sources of self – to go to the inner place of stillness where knowing comes to surface.” In this space where presence and sensing meet, I use journaling to aid in creating action steps that bring awareness to my current reality. I do this exercise when I want to show up and put in the effort; not because I think I should do it. Click here for the guided journaling practice from the Presencing Institute. Take care of yourself, friend!