When I was in counseling 5 years ago, one of the most interesting things my therapist shared with me was that sometimes people from the closest of families have a disadvantage in love and marital relationships. This was actually more than interesting—it was startling. Aren't the people from close families supposed to have a leg up when it comes to relationships?
Well, in many respects, we do.
But when it comes to building a life with someone else, having close family members' voices continually piping up in the back of your head can sometimes silence your own internal voice and prevent you from making the kinds of decisions you would make on your own, with your partner. I struggled with this a lot when I started contemplating not having children. I heard and felt the influence of generations bearing down on me, telling me I should have kids. It was my duty. I HAD to do it.
And then my dad cut me a huge break and told me it was okay if Mr. W and I decided to forego children. Score one for Daddy Hetherington.
Unfortunately, his voice didn't shut down all the rest. I've had to learn to distinguish them all myself. And it has occurred to me that it's not just familial voices trying to steer my course—there are friends and even strangers expressing their opinions in there, too. Which begs the question: who are we all listening to when we make choices in our lives?
With all the shoulds crowding our heads, how do we know which ones are coming from our own instinct and which are coming from the people around us—friends, family, Facebook acquaintances?
It's so dangerously easy to tune into the commentary and opinions of others, whether in our airspace or in our own heads. And maybe it's okay to do so...until we lose our own authentic voices in the process.
Just because your grandmother thinks you should wear lipstick to the grocery store, does it mean you have to? Just because your friends from high school take spring break trips to Belize with their husbands and kids, does it mean you're inadequate if you don't? Just because Access Hollywood tells you Botox is the new black, does that mean you have to go get it?
Just as my therapist taught me I had to break away from the well-meaning dialog in my head to find my own internal voice, I want to tell everyone I know that they don't have to listen to other people in their lives to make decisions, choose their paths, feel right in their skin.
The only words you need to listen to are your own.
Kick the shoulds right to the curb.