Should. A word that probably needs to be removed from our vocabulary. It is used often, and many times in a way that says “I have expectations that were not met.” It could be that we did not meet our own expectations and “should” have done something different. It could be that someone else did not meet our expectations and they “should” have done something that we expected or done it our way. It could be that we look back on decisions made, behavior displayed, and “should” have behaved differently or made a different decision. Although on it’s face it doesn’t seem to be a bad word, it can conjure up ill feelings and regret for us. It pushes us to live in the past where depression, sadness and anger tend to sit front and center. My mental health issues have always been because I focused on the past, on decisions made, on things I did or did not do, things I didn’t measure up to in my mind.
This past week, “should” was front and center for me. Instead of being grateful for where I am now, I was focused on what I should have done differently. I have a group of friends who I was out of contact with for a very long time. I missed out on so much. I missed out on their growing love and friendship with each other. I missed out on different occasions. I missed out on celebrating their children and being a part of the group. I found myself thinking “I should have behaved differently.” “I should have made different choices and decisions.” I also found myself a bit sad and a bit angry that they also didn’t reach out to me over that time. I found myself frustrated. It reminded me of other old regrets that pop up, that feeling that I let myself down or other’s down. The feeling of not being important, not being loved overwhelmed me.
Should pushed me to be bitter and sad versus grateful for where we are now. When I look back I realize that I need to own my part, my behavior then, but I am not responsible for other’s behavior or their part. I was having dinner with a friend one evening and started sharing some of these feelings. She reminded me that we all make the best decisions we can with the information we have at that moment and when we have new information, we hopefully make different decisions. Sitting in the past lamenting on what I should have done just created the sadness and bitterness. It didn’t do anything to help me, it didn’t do anything to move forward. It kept me stuck.
I knew she was right. I don’t want to be bitter or sad, I want to rekindle the love, care and joy we once had and allow it to grow and move forward. By allowing myself to move forward without the regret, I am allowing the relationships to blossom the way they are intended. By being grateful for where we are today versus being focused on what could have been, I let go of the negative feelings, I let go of the bitterness. I don’t want to feel that way, I don’t want to be bitter toward me or others. I want to approach life from a place of love, kindness and compassion; not anger and sadness.
So next time you start to use the word “should”, rethink that. How else can you think about a choice, a decision or a behavior without “shoulding” all over yourself?