We often accuse ourselves for not being good enough. Maybe we are not thin enough. Maybe we succumb to emotional eating too much. Whatever it is, we have our “shoulds” and when we don’t comply with them, an internal war is on.
When the war is on, we whip ourselves. We lose trust in ourselves. We sabotage our dreams because we “are not worth it”.
We become our own worst enemy.
It’s only natural to do that when we are so religiously devoted to our “shoulds”.
The problem with “shoulds” is that they often have a…weak relationship with reality.
“Dogs should dig in the ground to poo and then cover it up, just like cats do”
This is a nice “should”. If dogs did that the environment would look cleaner.
Yet no matter how hard you or me or anyone believes in this “should”, this belief is only destined to bring pain. Actually the more emotionally invested we are in this belief, the more pain it will bring. Why?
Because dogs behave like dogs. And cats like cats. And if I believe that dogs should behave like cats, I will only get angry at dogs “unsanitary choices”…I will be mad at dogs, and maybe even spend some of my time trying to teach dogs to behave like cats. I am not sure how successful my efforts will be.
Because the truth is that dogs behave like dogs…And no matter how hard I try I will probably not succeed
in making a dog behave like a cat.
However, just in case I ever see a dog pooing the way a cat does, then I will feel pleased. So when things go according to my “should” then I will be happy. When they don’t I will be sad or angry. Unfortunately, I will be more angry than happy as..dogs behave like dogs, not like cats.
Now, think back to a “should” that you believe in (and you may or may not conform to it).
E.g., “I should keep a healthy weight.”
If you have a healthy weight then fine, you will be pleased. If you don’t, you will feel bad with yourself. Actually the more you believe in this belief, the worse you will feel. You will accuse yourself for not having a healthy weight. You will think of techniques to whip yourself into shape.
Now, I am not saying that you should not keep a healthy weight. What I want to say is that you should not have a healthy weight..until you actually do.
If you see yourself as a dog, and see the healthy weight as the cat, then telling yourself that you should have a healthy weight will not work, just like trying to teach a dog to dig in the ground and poo in there and then cover it up (just like cats do) does not work. Because dogs behave like dogs, and cats like cats.
And you are currently a dog, and asking you to do it like a cat is destined to bring misery (because it does not work).
That’s not to say that change is not possible. You can switch from being a dog to being a cat. But asking yourself to behave like a cat while you are being a dog does not really work…
Two steps to accepting where you are
Let’s investigate this belief: “People should keep a healthy weight”
1. Is this belief true?
“Probably yes. People with healthy weight live longer, have higher self-confidence and even make more money.”
2. Is this belief absolutely 100% true?
“Hmm…probably not. There are a lot of overweight people who live long, have very high self-confidence, and make a lot of money.”
Oops, now you see that more possibilities are open for you. You don’t absolutely need to have a healthy weight (and that’s why you don’t). You can if that’s what you want, but you don’t absolutely need to. You have the option to be happy just the way you are.
I am not asking you to drop the belief that “people should keep a healthy weight” or any other belief. What I am asking you though is to think whether your belief is…absolutely 100% true.
You will most probably see that beliefs are seldom…100% true. They are just beliefs.
So if you are now feeling bad about yourself, bad for not being where you want to be, asking these two questions may open your mind to more possibilities.
And as Lord Thomas Dewar said…
Minds are like parachutes. They work best when they are open.
If what you want is to accept where you are, then you will certainly do that.
If you like this reality check, then you might want to check out the work.org. These are only 2 of the four questions presented in “The Work”. I was delighted to get introduced to Byron Katie’s work during my vacation and did turn around quite a few beliefs that were holding me back. Here are all four questions that can lead to your freedom.
Photo credit: parachute – Horia Varlan