Brionna Jimerson | Respect your elders
Should.” The hell. Seriously, why do we still employ this word when talking about ourselves? I should have written this column five days ago, but here I am, after deadline, piecing my thoughts together in some 600-word cohesive something. Sorry to shatter the illusion (was there ever an illusion?), but I am 100 percent a procrastinator and the s-word revolution starts … tomorrow.
Yes, the s-word. One of the most crippling and ineffective words in our lexicon when referring to ourselves and our shortcomings.
Maybe it’s the senior-year nostalgia kicking in, combined with my longing to go back and rethink my college decisions, but I’m finding that everywhere I turn, either I or someone else is lamenting on personal failures — “I should update my LinkedIn page,” or “I should’ve majored in American Studies” (save yourself the trouble — reference the turmoil I mentioned a couple of columns ago and explore that major now) — and it’s kind of seductive, in a creepy, wallowing way. “Yes! Reminding myself of what I’m not doing is a surefire way to kick myself into gear!” said nobody ever.
So much of what we “should” do is driven not by personal fulfillment but by projecting onto ourselves what we see and admire in others, without taking into account the process folks go through to become who they are. We see it, we covet it, we want it and when our “shoulds” just aren’t enough we fall to pieces, and then blame ourselves because we “should” be stronger? See? See how gross and creepy this is? We should start a “should” support group. But actually.
Honestly, I think “should” is great for impeding progress, the sentiment being that whatever you are doing now or whoever you are now is inherently wrong, and there’s something better for you waiting if only you’d be better.
“Should” never leads to actual change, or a hint of it. It simply leads to more uncertainty and perpetual frustration. “Should” doesn’t take into account that we’re human beings who are capable of change in our own time. “Should” reigns at Tufts. Should is the reason why so many people graduate and continue on with jobs that pay the rent but neglect the self. If we are going to play this game then we “should” not have come to college, because we “should” have already acquired the skills, research abilities, knowledge and wisdom to transcend the need for higher education institutions. You see there? “Should” denies reality and discounts us as individuals.
As someone who lives in a perpetual state of “shouldacouldawoulda,” I can tell you in earnest that “shoulding” on yourself does more harm than good.
Telling yourself that you “should” study more effectively will not help you study more effectively. Telling yourself that you should spend more time alone getting to know yourself won’t lead to actual self-awareness, it’ll lead to self-shaming once you fail to carry through with what you “should” be doing, and it leads to judging yourself. And when this happens, all roads lead to Häagen Dazs and Netflix.
So, it is time to try something different. To change, we have to acknowledge how we’re feeling and thinking and make an honest assessment. “Should” makes us aware of what is wrong, without giving us the tools to fix it. Are your actual values in line with this desire? If you want to change, avoid “should” and work on doing. When you learn how to do this, let me know.
But seriously, we should get coffee.