Updated: Mar 7, 2021
"Ten is when we learn how to be good girls and real boys. Ten is when children begin to hide who they are in order to become what the world expects them to be. Right around ten is when we begin to internalize our formal taming. Ten is when the world sat me down, told me to be quiet, and pointed toward my cages." - Glennon Doyle, Untamed
Someone shared this phrase with me in the last year or so, and I think of it several times a week now: Don't should on yourself.
We often have a tendency to operate from internalized beliefs about what, how, who we should be, and when and how much we should be that way. Especially for women and people who were raised assigned female at birth, these internalized beliefs begin to take root from an early age. We are socialized to believe that our authentic selves are too much or not enough, and sometimes simultaneously both of these things.
We should watch our weight. We should eat healthier. We should have children. We should work. We should stay home. Be a better girlfriend/wife/mother/partner. Have a career. Have a family. Be polite. Not make waves. Not be aggressive or angry. Be nice. Not turn down men's advances. Care what others think of us. Put others before ourselves. Not be selfish. Recycle. Not shop here or there. Forgive those who have harmed us. Wear this and we not wear that. Not have been wearing that if we didn't want to be treated that way. Set a good example. Read more. Watch less Netflix. Have more hobbies. Cook more. Wear makeup. Not that much makeup. And we should not critique men, perhaps most especially the mediocre white men.
These internalized beliefs are unconsciously buried within our brains, contributing to our decisions without us even realizing.
We are expected to make ourselves smaller, less this and more that, to fit into the expectations pressing around us from every angle.
It can be empowering to simply start to notice when you "should" on yourself - and when others are doing it to you, too.
I want to be clear: I'm not saying you should stop should-ing on yourself. I am offering a reframe. Doing things because we want to do them and not because someone (or ourselves) told us that we should do them completely shifts the power imbalance that should creates.
I want to amplify a recent Facebook post (and a book worth (pre)ordering!).
Awesomely Luvvie wrote:
"You will always be TOO something to someone.
Too loud. Too quiet. Too aggressive. Too sensitive. Too short. Or too tall. Too thin. Too Black.
When people say we are TOO something, they aren’t just noticing something about us. They are requesting we change that thing about us. That we become smaller or less. Then, we in turn, feel self-conscious and fix that thing.
The problem is this - those things that we are too much of are often fundamental to the core of who we are. They can’t be changed. (How am I too tall? You want me to shrink myself?) We can’t internalize these critiques. Let’s embrace them.
No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, someone will always think you are TOO something. So lean in. They think you’re too tall? Wear stilettos. Be the youest you that ever youed.
This resonated with me so deeply when I read it, and the message is beautiful. I have preordered Luvvie's book and am looking forward to immersing myself in it soon. Be the youest you that ever youed!