At the beginning of 2023 when I was considering setting some new years resolution, I found a number of friends were ditching resolutions in favour of a word for the year. The concept is from a book called ‘One Word That Will Change Your Life’ The idea is to have a word to guide your actions and help you grow in all areas of life.
As I sat and thought about what word I would choose, ‘freedom’ kept coming to mind. I liked it but it was just a word. I was frustrated because it did not bring anything tangible with it. I decided to let it sit on my mental whiteboard. After a few days, my husband and I were talking about rules. I rather unkindly called him a pharisee.
I felt bad and reflected on my comment. It dawned on me, that despite thinking of myself as free, I was living captive to rules that I’d imposed on myself. I lived by so many musts and shoulds. Here are a few of them:
I must arrive early for events
I should go to every meeting arranged for any group I have joined
I must in any circumstance do what I have offered
I should not eat any processed foods
I must always put others (especially my kids) first
I had drafted this musing last Thursday and then Saturday happened, a day that was going to give me opportunity to let my new word freedom guide me. On Saturday morning I got a phone call to say that my son was really unwell. I collected him from football and rushed him to the hospital. We spent a long and scary day in the A & E while they investigated heart problem. Thankfully he was discharged that evening for follow up with cardiology.
I did not eat anything for hours because the only available food was processed. With my stomach rumbling loudly and my head hurting I realised I was holding myself to a stupid, unwritten rule. I let go of it and ate some junk food. I felt much better for eating and was able to take better care of my son. It is of course a good intention to eat less processed food, however it’s unhelpful to make it a law. Especially when breaking it leads to regret and self loathing!
Having broken one rule I was on a roll. The next day I was responsible for refreshments at church. I knew there were others on the rota who were aware we had been in the hospital, so I went rouge. I did not even arrange cover or check on the provisions. I did not feel guilty! For the rest of this week I will be completely free. I will join in what is best for me, my son and our family. I’m so pleased to have chosen freedom as my word for the year.
Now, you probably don’t have rules like mine, but I have a question for you to muse over? Do you have any must or shoulds? What would it be like to change them to may and could?
I’d love to chat with you in the comments. Let me know if you relate in any way. Do you have any musts or shoulds to bin?
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Absolutely love the honesty in this piece. Ditching the shoulds is a life-changer! Self-compassion can follow more easily, then.
I think you’d like the enneagram- have you ever looked at it?