As a teacher, one of my favourite things was twisting the end of stories to mess with the kids in my class!
I once convinced thirty-one 5 year olds that the big, bad wolf actually just had hay fever. His only crime was reacting to a heavy pollen count whilst passing by flimsily constructed houses made with inferior building materials and shoddy workmanship!
I was so convincing that Dirk, who was only ever one sandwich away from starting a revolution, suggested sending a petition to Downing Street to clear Mr Wolf’s name!
As adults, we know that stories can be viewed differently depending on which end of the telescope you’re looking through. That still doesn’t stop us from using stories to hold ourselves to ransom.
In my Human First Academy, there’s a lesson on unpicking outdated beliefs around your ‘Should Stories’. Those beliefs that seeped into your psyche (or were embedded by others) as you grew, are about what you should say, do, think and feel.
Your shoulds are informed by the parenting and education you receive, by your culture, gender, class and race and a myriad of other scripts you’re taught. Alongside all the good stuff that gets passed down to you lurks the thoughts, feelings and beliefs that become words, actions and habits without you even noticing. The downside is that you tend to hold on long after those narratives stop serving you.
Here’s some incredible insight from Lucy after watching the Should Stories video.
Should Stories I’m ready to change:
* I should always work hard (not necessarily smart) because hard work = success and if I’ve not worked hard or tried my very best it means I don’t deserve what I achieve/get
* I should be thin so I can be liked, be worthy, be happy, be successful.
* I should be better – This was the first thing I wrote down and I don’t know where it came from or even what better means. I’ve felt this my entire life.
This, from an intelligent, articulate, talented and experienced woman who is a competent and capable leader and a business owner! The part that resonates most is the last line: I’ve felt this my entire life.
So my question is…
Who on earth is this perfectly, just right, vanilla-typical Goldilocks person that we are all measuring ourselves against and aspiring to be? Let’s not forget that Goldilocks herself was a bona fide home-invading vandal with a tendency to flee the scene of a crime! Not exactly a role model by any stretch of the imagination.
Are you ready to switch it up? Try these three ways to ditch your Should Stories. Full disclosure – challenging your nurture story is not a spectator sport! As you go, try treating yourself with the same everlasting compassion you gift to others! I’ve ordered these three by curry temperature – the standard measure of all things good in our house. Choose whichever level suits your bravery right now.
Get curious about what and FFS* life would look like for you. Focus on fulfilment-flavoured success* rather than working yourself so hard you collapse over (or just before ) the finish line.
Switch the word ‘should’ for the more liberating ‘would like to’. It swaps shame for intention. So it’s not “I should eat healthier.” It’s “I would like to eat healthier.” Much more energy and agency in that last one!
Write your own Should Stories down and choose which ones you want to leave on the page rather than carry for the rest of your life until they leave you lying face down on the tarmac with buckets of your unfulfilled potential spilling onto the sidewalk! And then pass those same debilitating Should Stories on to those you love the most.
Galvanised into action yet?
By the way, fulfilment-flavoured success is the best Korma you’ve ever tasted followed by an exquisite minty choccy chip and salted caramel ice cream combo topped with those tutti-frutti mouth crackling sprinkle things Raj used to sell in his paper shop.
As my nan would say, “Get your laughing gear round that!”