How to Escape the Whirlpool of 'Should's' & Stop Feeling Guilty

How to Escape the Whirlpool of 'Should's' & Stop Feeling Guilty

I had a bit of a breakthrough this week, a realisation, sudden awakening, moment of ‘ahh’. A small, but impactful shift in my thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

As is quite often the case in these minor neurological re-wirings, it’s quite hard to articulate or clearly put my finger on what’s changed, particularly as it’s not confined to one area, but I feel significantly different. It’s like my internal soundtrack has been just off key, setting my nerves on edge and creating a sense of unease and suddenly I’ve been able to retune – the soundtrack has resolved into something more harmonic, bringing a flood of relief, and a relaxing of my mind; a delicious sense of contentment and ease.

There are two very tangible places where the change is showing up:

The first, and most understandable place is how I’m planning and prioritising my time over the next 4 months or so.

Until this week, in my head I knew, cognitively, that I wanted to have more time for me, for my health and fitness; to be able to put time and attention into ‘clearing’ our home environment so the whole family has a stable, comfortable and supportive space where we feel nurtured, calm and safe; and to be able to be fully present and available to my husband and daughters as everyone, for a number of different reasons, has challenging and important months ahead.

But vying against these priorities, and throwing up lots of ‘buts’ whenever I’ve been trying to stick to those priorities, I also have a business to run, a full diary of clients and commitments, lots of exciting opportunities that could bring in more revenue (in turn helping provide for the family) and that ever present worry about bringing in enough to pay for the mortgage.

Ever since breaking my leg in 2013, and with my Mum’s illness and death in 2014 I’ve been acutely aware of how vulnerable my business model is.

I sell my time for money; if I’m not working, I’m not earning, so I’ve been determined to make changes to the business so it can continue to generate revenue for me, even if I’m away from it for a while.

I know what I need to do to create this, but I’ve continued to put it off for years.

Fear plays a big part in why I’ve not done it, but there’s also been a bit of me that is uncomfortable with the model; that somehow it’s not quite me or how I want to be. I’m doing it because I think I ‘should’, not because I want to.

But now something has shifted. I’ve simply stopped worrying about the business and what I ‘should’ be doing.

Because instead of just ‘knowing’ I want the family, and myself to come first over the next few months, now I really feel it to the depths of my being. There’s nothing I ‘should’ be doing, there’s only what I really WANT to do – the rest I can just let go of.

Yes, there are commitments to be kept, but they are commitments I want and choose to keep.

And yes, there are some new projects with the business I will be continuing to develop, but they are ones that both excite me, feel right and fit with the priorities I’ve set.

I’m beginning to say ‘no’, much, much more. I’m keeping the boundaries I’ve chosen and it feels great. Less really is more!

It feels rebellious and liberating and joyful, letting go of all these expectations, all the ‘shoulds’. I’m crystal clear on who and how I want to be, and why.

And that’s the shift – I suddenly saw how I’ve been caught in a whirlpool of ‘shoulds’, the fears, worries and anxieties contagiously passed on to me from other people, many of whom I don’t even know!

The second place this shift is showing up is much more obscure; I can’t really tell you exactly how its connected, I just feel that somehow it is!

I’ve always been a prolific reader, but I have experienced a number of times in my life when I’ve lost my reading ‘mojo’ and instead found myself compelled to play games rather than read. In those times I’ve not been able to settle my mind to surrender to a book; instead I somehow feel like I’m waiting for something and there’s ‘no point’ being absorbed by the words of others (I know, it makes no sense, but my unconscious mind is far from rational!).

Instead I addictively play puzzles, Sudoku, or Spider Solitaire, or Candy Crush saga, or Bubblewitch, or the Sims, or some other game that ensnares my neurology in what feels like a stranglehold for weeks or even months.

My own internal critic has a field day with this ‘waste of time’, scolding myself even as I’m reaching for the tablet, yet somehow feeling powerless to make a different choice and burdened with self-judgement, guilt, shame and disappointment. This most recent bout of gameplay to the exclusion of reading has lasted almost a year, and I was beginning to despair of ever breaking out of the cycle.

But with my ‘awakening’, the compulsion to play just melted away overnight, and I’ve now devoured 3 books in 4 days, greedily racing through them as if they were a feast placed in front of a starving man.

That overwhelming desire to play games to ‘occupy’ my mind instead of immersing myself in something else has just gone, vanished, leaving no trace at all. It’s like I’ve shifted from a place where I was waiting to do something I felt I should do, just biding my time, to completely letting go of the ‘should’ and being left free to make a choice.

All this may not make any sense at all to anyone other than me, but I’ve found more clarity by trying to articulate it here!

As ever, I’m conscious I don’t have ‘answers’, I simply hope that in honestly sharing my own experience and journey it can help reassure, provoke or support someone else in theirs.

Let me know if it resonates for you at all.

2 Comments
  • Sue
    Posted at 17:12h, 26 May Reply

    I can identify with your experience of losing you reading “mojo”. For me it started when my kids were very small. I had always been a great reader, and I found that I actually felt resentful of my baby for interrupting my reading. Oh, the shame… what a bad mother I was!

    As a result, I didn’t read anything more challenging than a glossy magazine for years (computer games weren’t much of a thing then, but it’s the same mind-numbing effect). And when I did try to read proper books again, I found it very difficult, and I still do most of the time. I do occasionally get through a book, but I still feel vaguely guilty when I sit down to read, as if there is something else I ought to be doing.

    Can’t blame the kids now, they are 25 and 28, and left home years ago.

    • Rachel Anderson
      Posted at 19:31h, 02 June Reply

      Ahh, thanks Sue, reassuring to know it’s not just me!

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