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:
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)
only feed my family home baked bread
have a tidier/cleaner house
be a better parent
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
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
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
Take Betty swimming every Saturday morning
Run a crochet class
Bake bread occasionally, by hand
Write a blog
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?