During the last several months I’ve been going through an awkward post-breakup transition phase that fluctuates between calm denial, feeling empowered, and panic. It hasn’t been my favorite stretch of time, that’s for sure. To make matters more confusing, I’ve had a lot of folks tell me exactly what it is I “should” be doing with my life now that I’m single.
Don’t get me wrong, I love advice from people with different backgrounds and experiences. A new perspective can completely change the way we see ourselves and the situations we encounter, which is healthy and wonderful. What I don’t find helpful is when someone imposes their beliefs and expectations on me in a way that only allows for a negative experience of myself or a situation. There’s a big difference between “You should just get rid of your guitar because, honestly, you’ve had it for seven years and you still don’t know how to play it,” and “I haven’t heard you talking about your guitar in a while, are you still planning to learn?”
What if my dream had always been to play the guitar and I just wasn’t ready or hadn’t found the time? Now that I’ve heard that someone thinks it’s probably a lost cause, instead of feeling grateful that I have a guitar to play when I’m ready to learn, I feel ashamed or at least a little defensive for thinking I might be great at it one day. There are exceptions to this, at least for me; for example: 1) If a “should” statement conveys support like “you should listen to your intuition” or “you should know you’re not alone,” or 2) If there is an adorable video of baby panda bears going down a slide that you think I should see, then I absolutely want to hear about it immediately and with lots of exclamation points.*
There are tons of ways that we can go around invalidating or hurting each others’ feelings without any intention of doing so. Having stronger boundaries is an advantage that I wish I could say I have, but that’s still a work in progress. Ultimately, I know we’re responsible for our own feelings in the end, but who couldn’t use a little help from time to time?
Since we’re all looking at the world through our own lens that’s been shaped by our own experiences, there’s so much out there that we don’t see or understand, especially when it comes to what others are going through. Maybe being a bit more mindful of how we’re using “should” in our interactions can help our people feel more supported in their decisions or in their chaos. At least it could be a start.
What are your experiences, dear readers? What kinds of phrases or support feel unproductive to you when you’re finding it difficult to make decisions? What would you prefer to hear instead?
*You should seriously watch this: