Personal

The Tyranny of “I Should”

A while ago, a friend said to me, “I’d hoped you would participate more in the school activities…eat lunch with us, maybe go to chapel.”

I froze.  My mind whirred with responses, some excuses, some truths:  “The lunches are too expensive.  I forgot.  A lot of the time I’m busy!  Sometimes I’m too socially tired to leave my room because I’m scared I’ll run into someone and have to make small talk!”

Instead, I answered with a more palatable truth.  “I want home to be somewhere where nothing happens.”

My friend stared at me, and I could see their brain desperately trying to understand what I had said.  Finally, still with a confused look on their face, they said, “Okay.”

I agonized about this interaction for DAYS.  There was a human being on the planet who was less than 100% thrilled with me!!  I was gratified to see that I have grown somewhat, because almost instantly one part of my brain lit up and assured me: “It doesn’t matter if everyone understands or approves of you, so long as you understand and approve of yourself.”  This was a very comforting thought until I got distracted and my gut reaction (BE PERFECT ALWAYS) reminded me of my failure.

I kept thinking:

I should participate more.

I should be more social.

I should take advantage of the relationships here.

I should be grateful of the space people have made for me here.

Should is just about one of the heaviest words to bear.  It is a constant reminder that “you are not good enough!” and “haha, nice try, but you’re still a failure!”

On top of this was a lot of confusion.  I couldn’t approve of myself because I couldn’t understand myself.  The thing is, I’m GOOD at making friends.  I love meeting new people!  I love hearing people’s stories!  I love new experiences!  So why don’t I want to eat lunch with a bunch of people who have never been anything but nice to me?

And then I had my eureka moment.

I mentally backtracked to college.  I spent TWO YEARS hanging out almost exclusively with my roommates: Whitney, Josephine, and Ashley.  While there were other cool people who I occasionally spent time with, it wasn’t until my junior year that I found a group of people that I felt comfortable with.

I jumped forward to Senegal, and then to Dallas, where in both cases, I spent all my time hanging out with Liz.  It was only when she moved away from Dallas that I really started investing in other people and found a group of people I felt comfortable with.

Huh, I thought.  Apparently, when I move to a new place, I need an ENORMOUS amount of time to cling to a safety blanket of a person before I feel comfortable enough to branch out and invest in other people.  I need a lot more space and personal time than usual, and uninhibited “fun” usually only happens with a special person or two.

I understood myself!  I could even approve of myself, because I suddenly saw my desire (and need) for a private space to call home as a necessity that allows me to work well, serve well, and socialize well.  It might be a bit weird, but it’s how I work, and when I follow my wiring, everything runs so much more smoothly.

I should be someone I’m not.

No!  I am who I am, an introvert who loves people and has a hard time figuring out how to do both without self-imploding.  That makes me interesting!  That makes me better empathize with people, because I’m like, “You talked to five people today!  You’re already a superhero!!”

So while I still wish everyone were 100% pleased with me all the time, I’m slowly learning that it’s more important to be 100% pleased with myself all the time.  And maybe as I grow closer to that goal, I’ll find that I care less and less what other people think I should do or be.

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6 thoughts on “The Tyranny of “I Should””

  1. I feel like this all the time. And by “this” I mean the introverted-ness, the anxiety, the need to be in a people-less environment for a few hours. I’m still unsure with how t omanage these feelings, but you are not alone! Great post!

    Like

    1. Thank you! Even though I am trying NOT to rely on other people’s opinions in order to feel good about myself….it feels really good to know there are other people feeling the same things! Maybe the solution is a community house for introverts where everyone respects people’s alone time? :p

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Hah! Yes, that is the central question of my (especially dating) life! How do I find people who want to hang out and watch Netflix and read and play video games…when we are all in our own homes doing those things? Hahah, I guess that’s what the internet is for!

          Liked by 1 person

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