Every time I sit down, the ‘Should Voice’ starts singing away in my head.
“You should do those dishes you know. They’re sitting there all dirty on the bench. You should really pack that dishwasher and clean the kitchen. You really should.”
The Should Voice Defined
- used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions.
“She should have been more careful”
“She should not have been so lazy”
Should is one of those awful words that was created purely to make humans feel guilt. Made to apply pressure on the human soul and make us feel bad for daring to sit still and do nothing for one freaking second.
Oh god, I should really shave my legs. I should really fold that washing. I should really go for a run. I should really stop eating carbs. Should should should. Should you, really?
Who is Your Should Voice?
We all have a Should Voice.
Everyone’s is different. More often than not our Should Voice mimics a parent, grandparent or teacher who was quite self-righteous and had pretty high standards. They likely had their own way of doing things and everything else was “wrong”. Perhaps they were hard to please or tended to be quite judgemental. Either way their perfectionistic energy has attached itself to you. Now, their judgement has become your Should Voice.
My Should Voice – The Old Hag
My ‘Should Voice’ sounds like a pious 80 year old woman. Her voice grinds into my bone marrow and whittles me down until I am forced to act. Forced to get up off my comfy chair, put down my book and partake in some painstaking chore that supposedly I should be doing.
“You should really mop that floor.” She coos in my ears.
“When was the last time you mopped it? In my day we mopped the floor every week. What would your grandmother think of that un-mopped floor? What would other people think?
Sometimes even when I have just done the things I should do, she’s still not happy.
“It’s good that you just changed all the bed sheets. But, you really should change them every single week. All mothers should find time to keep their children’s bed linen freshly changed.”
Who is The Old Hag in my head? And why does she want me to spend my life working like a dog, trying to meet to some immaculate standard of perfection? And for who? Because truth be told, a bit of mess doesn’t really bother me. As long as there are clean clothes and clean dishes, I’m good.
In Defense of The Old Hag
The truth is she really knows nothing else. In her day, you didn’t get out much. You stayed at home, kept the kids inline and you cleaned.
On Sunday you got to go to church which was the highlight of your week. Not because of the joy of worship but because you finally got a chance to gossip! The Old Hag and all the other ladies of the town would gossip like rabid hens.
“Well I popped over to Velma’s place last week and do you know what? The place was a right tip! Dishes on the sink! Windows all smudgy! Goodness me, her poor husband!”
The Old Hag’s biggest fear was for someone to come over unannounced and find her house a mess. So she cleaned. She rubbed her hands raw scrubbing and cleaning. But when she died, no one ever wrote on her gravestone just how clean her house had always been. She was devastated.
The Hag’s Super Objective
The Hag is not concerned about my well being. She just cares about what other people will think. “What if someone saw the house like this!?” The Hag can’t rest until the house is spotless. She can’t sit still and read a book if there is even one crumb on the table or any little job to do. She sees reading, arts and crafts and drawing as frivolous. “There is always something constructive to be done.” she says.
The poor Old Hag can’t relax.
I don’t want to be like her.
The Secondary Should Voice – The Friend
Most of us will have more than one Should Voice in our heads. Usually one is a voice or reason and the other is a pedantic voice of hyper-perfectionism.
My secondary ‘Should Voice’ is much kinder to me. Instead of a judgemental Old Hag she embodies a caring Friend. A Friend who only wants what is best for me. A Friend who kindly tells me what things I should do to make my life easier in the future.
“You’re really grumpy,” she whispers softly to me. “You should go for a run, you know it will make you feel much better. You haven’t exercised in days, that’s why you feel crappy and your back hurts. That’s why you just want to sit here and watch bad T.V and that’s why you have writer’s block. Go on, you should go for a run.”
While she is still a Should Voice, she is loving. And all she really cares about is me. She doesn’t speak for the faceless other people that I am (according to that old Hag), meant to be trying to impress. She works for me. She works to make me happy, healthy and calm.
Managing the Should Voice
For years I hated both of my Should Voices, because I couldn’t tell them apart. I thought all they wanted was to make me feel bad. To make me feel lazy, guilty and ashamed. No matter how much I cleaned. No matter how hard I exercised or how many hundreds of words I put on a page each day, the Should Voice was right there judging me. Telling me: “You should really do just a bit more.”
How to tell each Should Voice Apart
Sometimes it can be hard to tell each Should Voice apart. Especially when you are tired but there are still important things to get done. I get particularly confused when my Should Voice tells me to stop writing and cook dinner. I have to really take a moment to make sure that it is the kind voice of The Friend reminding me that it’s best not to let everyone get over hungry.
The best way to know who is who is to listen to what they are telling you to do. Who does it serve? If your Should Voice is telling you to polish your silverware because your Great-Grandmother would be ashamed, who is that really serving? If the should voice is telling you to do some meal prep for the week ahead so you can commit to eating healthy, that is purely for your benefit, so you must be listening to The Friend.
Block out the Bad Should Voice and Focus on the Good
Personally, I only want to listen to The Friend. She wants me to keep my house moderately clean so that it is safe and comfortable. But she doesn’t want me to waste my life cleaning because she knows there are plenty of other things I have to offer the world that are much more important. She wants me to fly through life easily and happily managing to somehow juggle everything effortlessly. So, she gives me little tips here and there.
Once I had distinguished who was who, it was much easier for me to figure out if I wanted to listen to those should voices; I could filter out the caring from the callous.
“You should really iron those sheets.”
Shut up Hag! Only freaks iron sheets! I’ve got books to write. Get a freaking hobby old lady!
“You should stop watching this ridiculous show and write some of that novel.”
Yes, you are right. I really should, my friend.