Dr. Matthew Paldy

The Tyranny of the Should

We've all danced with the "shoulds" - the persistent requirement by our families, friends, and communities that we need what they need, live as they live, believe as they believe and express ourselves in ways they think we should. Whether the "shoulds" come from the loving heart of our mother, the pulpit, or the political process, they are delivered from the outsid - external demands that may be in opposition to personal truth. If we allow the "shoulds" to overshadow our needs, we are allowing ourselves to violate the personal contract with our own truth. Often we believe that expressing our own needs is selfish, while denying our needs is generous.

Mothers, in particular, are subject to this "Tyranny of the Should." Recognizing that you have extremely important responsibilities to your kids, you are ultimately hurting them if you don't take care of yourself. This means that , sometimes, you must put yourself first. Constantly putting the kids first is equivalent to putting your children's oxygen mask on first in an airplane emergency. You put yours on first so that you can be an effective parent. Harming yourself in favor of your children ultimately harms them too.

Connie is a mother who grew up with the "shoulds" many of us have been taught. She should be a sacrificing mother and put her children's needs first; she should defer to others; and she should teach her son to put others' needs before his own. They become the rules that Connie creates to determine how she should act, feel, or be in order to gain acceptance and feel good about herself. But here's the problem, it makes her fundamentally dishonest to herself and others. Connie might consider asking herself the following questions:

• How did I learn the "shoulds" that govern my life?
• What "shoulds" drive my behavior?
• What are my fears about being honest? What will I lose if I am honest?
• How can I honestly express my needs and encourage others to express theirs, too?