Fuck the shoulds, do the wants.

Don’t worry about what I’m doing. Worry about why you’re worried about what I’m doing.

Recently I had the privilege to travel to Los Angeles and New York in the same month. After those travel experiences I got to thinking about what I wanted to take away from them. Being in two of the biggest cities in the US, made me realize how crazy it is that low self-esteem is so prevalent. While I was there, I was thinking how there are so many people surrounding me at this moment that none of them are even thinking about me. They aren’t giving me the time of day. No one is paying attention to what I look like or what I’m wearing. Everyone is wrapped up in their own lives, where they’re going, and who they’re talking to. Why am I so important to totally disrupt their day and have them care about what I’m doing. I guess I’m not!

That thought was so freeing to me, it felt as if the world shifted on its axis and clicked into place. Out of all the people I interact with every day, I know that no one goes home and thinks about the fact that my hair looked weird or my outfit didn’t match. People care more about and remember how you treat them. If I ever remember something that happens to me during the day, it’s usually someone being rude to me or some guy catcalling me. Or someone giving me a compliment.

This constant worry about what others are thinking of us has become so prevalent. When we get caught up in that thinking, we forget to live our own lives. Everything we do revolves around how it will be perceived rather than simply doing something because we want to. This often leads us to always be worrying about what others are doing too. Why are they acting a certain way, why would they choose to wear that, what are they doing? We end up making these snap judgments because it makes us feel better about ourselves. We focus more on what the other person is doing over ourselves.

Thoughts don’t last

We all have those snap judgements, we’re only human. I might have an initial thought of “oh that’s an interesting outfit choice” and raise an eyebrow, but to be honest, I don’t think about it after the fact. I don’t go home and think about that person because it’s not important. My brain isn’t classifying that as information it needs to store. So if MY brain is doing that, everyone else’s probably is too. I can’t expect people to not have snap judgments of me, but what I can control is how I let it effect me. So if I walk out of my house looking like a hot mess, or if I stumble over my words, sure people might have a judgement at first, but it won’t be important enough for them to remember it. Acknowledging that last statement “they won’t remember it” is what I have started to practice whenever I feel self-conscious or worried about what others are thinking of me.

As I have begun practicing this, I realized something else happening too. Because I have been lessening the pressure on myself, I am also losing some of those snap judgments towards others.

I remember growing up and seeing something happen in public like, someone dancing, or being what I thought was too loud and obnoxious. I would think “oh how embarrassing for them” or “why are they so weird?” when in reality I am probably jealous of their free spirit and their general lack of caring what others are thinking of them.

I’ve since changed my perspective to see those people as having fun. They’re enjoying themselves and not caring about who is watching. They are fully immersed in what they’re doing and having a good time. So I think that they look weird, who the hell cares? Does it matter what I think? No! The only thing that matters is what they’re experiencing. I don’t have to right to put my judgement on them and ruin their time. I’ve started to give people the benefit of the doubt and I am much happier for it. I am seeing the good in them rather than picking apart and judging them. Because if I judge them for being themselves in public, am I ever going to be able to be myself? No! Because I would be too worried of their potential judgment.

It is none of your business what other people think of you. Your thoughts and feelings are your own. We can’t be in charge of what others are thinking. We go through life thinking that we need to know what someone else thinks of us in order to be happy. I need to know this person cares about me, or I need to know that this friend thinks my outfit is cute. But when did we start doubting our own opinions? When did our own opinions stop having so much weight and value? How did we get to this place where it matters more about what someone thinks of us versus how we think of ourselves. I’d like to change that.

Self-acceptance
I think a common way to combat that thinking is to spew self-love. The whole, “look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself how great you are” concept. That has proven to be pretty difficult to practice. If you don’t think you’re great and pretty and worthy, are you even going to believe it? You’re going to say that, roll your eyes and then continue feeling bad about yourself.

I definitely think self-love is important and that we all need a little more love for ourselves, but I believe self-acceptance has to come first. You can only love yourself once you fully accept who you are. You do more for your self-worth if you can look at yourself in the mirror and admit that you don’t look your best, and then accept that’s all it’s going to be. If my hair looks a mess, I can choose to obsess about it, think about it all day and go to the bathroom every hour. Or, I can look at myself, shrug my shoulders, and remind myself that no one is even going to notice and I can try to tame the mane again tomorrow.

We need to give ourselves the opportunity to have those days where we aren’t 100%. Having a bad hair day is not a reflection of who I am. If I can give myself permission to say to myself “it’s okay, you’re trying”, I come out the other end much better off than if my immediate reaction is to say “well you must suck and you’re ugly and stupid”.

You don’t need to tell yourself that you look amazing if you don’t believe it. The more you can see yourself in reality, you’ll start to find subtle things you do like about yourself. Your flaws are unique to who you are and in reality, most people don’t notice them. We put too much focus on perfecting our flaws rather than putting that focus into being present, genuine, and kind. Be realistic. Tell yourself how it is. Give yourself a break, be honest and be who you want to be.

Shoulds

There is a lot of pressure to be who we should be. We get these ideas from society, our parents, and even our own experiences. This feeling that we should be doing or looking or being a certain way creates unhappiness because we can’t live up to those expectations. But we have the power to create our own expectations!

So don’t let someone ‘should’ all over you. Don’t even let YOU should all over you. You don’t have to listen if society or Instagram is saying that you’re worthless if you don’t have a huge ass and dress in the latest trends. When it comes down to it, we don’t NEED to be doing anything we don’t want to! We impose all these “shoulds” on ourselves. Yeah we definitely have things we should do like eat and drink water and other things we need to survive. But besides those basic needs, there are no rules! Let me say that again. There are NO RULES to how you have to live your life. So that means you can make it any way you want!

When we don’t live up to the shoulds, we end up feeling guilty for who we are. Why do we feel guilty for what we feel and think? Because we are comparing it to what we believe we should be feeling. But who is putting those shoulds on us? Society? Well fuck them. You are the only person who can should on themselves. So do the weird thing. Dance in public. Trip over your own feet. Be unapologetically yourself. Do whatever YOU want. The person you pass on the street doesn’t care. I only care about what I’m doing, so you do you all over the damn place.

Live your truth
When we start accepting our flaws and weirdness, we begin to allow ourselves to live our truth, without any judgment! It’s allowing yourself to be so unapologetically you that you don’t have time to worry about what anyone else is thinking.
Take a moment to ask yourself, what is true for you? Who are you and who do you want to be? Think about what real life is for you. What do you know to be real and true and good about who you are? The best part is, it doesn’t have to be a constant. Your truth in one situation does not have to be your truth in another. That’s the beauty of it, since it’s YOURS, it can be whatever you want.

My truth is loving my body one day and the next refusing to pass a mirror. Both are okay.

It’s loving to clean but also loving to let my clothes pile up (outside of the hamper). Both are okay.

It’s having dinner ready one day but the next changing into an outfit 10 minutes before my husband gets home so he thinks I did more than watch Netflix all day. Both are okay.

Real life for me is enjoying solitude but also feeling lonely. Both are okay.

Real life for me is caring so deeply about the world but also refusing to watch the news because I know it makes me sad. Both are okay.

These are the things I do because I genuinely want to. I don’t want a super toned body. I want to eat a pizza and drink a beer. I want to spend time alone, with a blanket watching Netflix and not socializing. I am very stand-offish but secretly love attention. I hate the heat and love a good rainstorm. I love being vegan. I love reading self-help books. If you think those things are weird, that’s awesome because I love being weird! I wouldn’t want to fit anyones idea of who I should be.

I can think all of these things without guilt because it’s my truth. That is where I am at right now. I accept the dichotomy of all of those things. I’m allowed to feel on top of the world and like total scum of the earth in the same week, day, and even hour. I’m allowed to feel happy even if I’m in a low place. I’m allowed to feel happy despite the state of the world (lookin’ at you Mr. President). I’m allowed these things because I’ve decided they are part of who I am. And since I have nothing to prove to anyone, and there are no rules, then I can be who I am without guilt. I’m not hurting anyone by being me.

Be you

We need to be making more decisions based on our truths. We should be able to look in the closet and pick an outfit because we think it looks cute without having that worry of “will other people think I look weird in this?”. Getting rid of that worry is not always possible. What is possible however is deciding to wear the cute outfit anyway, despite what people might think. The more practice we have in making decisions based on our own desires, the more freedom we have to be ourselves.

What people do and say says more about them then it does about you. If someone is going to judge you, let them! That’s on them. They haven’t found a place of acceptance yet. Lead by example. Be totally yourself that people are jealous and strive to be themselves too.

I am enough. This is my truth. You better believe I’m gonna live it because I wouldn’t want it any other way. I hope you can learn to live your truth too.

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