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It occurred to me the other day that I spend a lot of my life ‘shoulding’ myself. There are all manner of things I think I should do or should be, area in which I am not living up to expectations (mine? Who knows.) The following list is not even nearly exhaustive. I should:

be thinner

ride my bike, especially with the kids on the back

have my own crochet business

be a better read feminist

in fact be better read altogether (the list of books I should read would merit a blog post of its own)

run 10k

only feed my family home baked bread

have a tidier/cleaner house

be a better parent

be greener

eat pulses

be more well groomed

have better hair

know more history

be more frugal

write beautiful hand lettering or just have better handwriting

be able to touch type

remember everyone’s birthdays and send them all cards

make presents for people

write real letters to my friends

blog more often

have cooler fashion sense

understand politics

grow my own veg

speak another language properly

stop buying things at the supermarket and Amazon and buy local instead

be better at my sewing machine

write a book, have already written one preferably

be funnier

take my kids on nature walks

have a finance spreadsheet and keep to it

be cool enough to carry off a wink

customise my clothes

The list goes on…There are a whole heap of things that I feel like I should be doing. The ‘shoulds’ come from a few sources, the main one being me and my perfectionist, aspiring personality. Combine that with a distinct lack of completer-finisher in me, and well, you have a recipe for disaster, guilt, and of course dilettantism. The second source of shoulds come from the mass media. I very rarely by glossy magazines any more, but do indulge in a spot of Psychologies, and craft magazines. Even they, rather more benignly contribute to the idea of doing more, being more and having more. Whether that is £145 face serum (thanks for the recommendation Psychologies) or my own off beat craft business (Mollie Makes). Having children is no longer an excuse not to be successful either, thanks to the rise of kitchen table businesses, where mothers of young children create business from nothing, selling too-cute-for-words accessories or cupcakes with a nattily dressed baby on their hips. Do you detect a little envy in this post? Damn right you do! I’m unashamedly envious of these people, and attribute my lack of similar success to just not trying hard enough.

The third source of my attack of the shoulds is social media. Social media I love you, but you show me glimpses of worlds I can only dream of. By nature social media is very self selecting. I follow people, through blogs or twitter etc., who do stuff I am interested in. And I order for me to follow them and be interested they probably do it quite well. Hence with my varied interests I am following writers, journalists, psychologists, crafters and artists, and wondering why I am not as successful as all these people. Social media is also rather deceptive. It gives the illusion of reality, following people’s real lives, seeing their homes, their studios and their work. However it is barely more real life than a magazine spread. Of course people are selective about what they post. They leave out the bad bits, and we never see homes with laundry spilling out of the basket or kitchen tables still covered in this morning’s breakfast paraphernalia. Despite my awareness of this, my illogical brain just notes how much better everyone else is than me.

I also need to remind myself of the financial and time constraints of my life. If you devote yourself to a single cause or career you are going to be better at it. My problem is I want to devote myself to lots of causes, careers an activities.

In concerning myself with all the things I’m not or that I don’t do I forget all the things I am or that I actually do. So I am going to list them, to prove to myself and to everyone else that my life is actually full of value, even if that value is not equal to everyone else’s.

So these are the things I do and can do:

Raise 2 young children, who are polite and sociable (to other people anyway!)

Speak passable French and Spanish

Create home cooked meals for my children, they even eat some of them

Bake nice cakes for my family and colleagues

Run 2-3 miles about twice a week

Study for a part time Masters Degree in Occupational Psychology

Work 4 days a week

Have 2 degrees in psychology with the highest grade in each

Crochet

Take Betty swimming every Saturday morning

Run a crochet class

Bake bread occasionally, by hand

Write a blog

Yarn bomb

Know all the names of the New Testament books (I learned them at Brownies)

Make cakes for the school fetes

Sit down an eat dinner with my kids everyday, and ask them how their days were

Find the end of the sellotape without fail, within seconds

Ran a yarn bombing workshop

Make my own granola (sometimes)

And do you know what, even if this list was half or as third as long it should still be enough. I work enough so that we can afford to live (just about!) and raise 2 kids, who are only semi feral and are usually fed and dressed (even if fed does mean Coco Pops for breakfast, and if dressed means wearing Buzz Lightyear and pirate outfits).

I am slowly coming around to the realisation that I can’t do everything, and should stop comparing myself to others. I’m not quite there yet, but this post a step forwards.

Do you have a list of shoulds and how do you get past them?

11 thoughts on “Coulda woulda shoulda

  1. Don’t beat yourself up, you’re doing far more than some people! My worst thing is procrastination! I have lots of time and don’t always use it wisely but I’ve got to the age where I realise you do what you, the best you can and make the most of your life within those constraints. Looking at too many should dos can only make you unhappy whereas doing the best you can can give you satisfaction. Breathe! Relax! Life is for living not wondering what you “should” do. keep up with the blog, love reading it!

  2. Dear me! I think you’re feeling the way we all do sometimes. I’m the same – I sometimes think that everyone is doing better than me, either they’re better parents, or have better jobs, or are better crafters, or have more interesting lives. But I bet there isn’t one person who is better at everything, just that everyone is better at something. And hey, when I read your blog I think, ‘wow, I wish I was doing that!’ sometimes :)

    Ps I’m a very strong completer-finisher, it doesn’t mean I get any more done, just that I get massively frustrated by how long it takes me to do everything!

  3. Shoulds are EVIL and of no use to anyone. Replace all your shoulds with “would like to” and then ask yourself whether what you’re telling yourself is actually true. So…would you *like* to eat pulses, have better hair and make all your own bread? If you would, then fine, you’ll find a way at some point. If you wouldn’t…then there’s no need to worry about not doing it!

  4. The nice thing here, is that while agreeing with some of your ‘shoulds’ and aspiring to some of the ‘dos’, I find I DO some of your ‘shoulds’,* which is kind of reassuring.

    * I can touchtype and, well, *I* think I’m funny …

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