The Should Monster

Drawing by Ffion Evans,

Do you know the Should Monster? (FYI: It’s nothing like that Muffin Man who lives on Drury Lane.) The Should Monster is a shape-shifting bastard who preys on unsuspecting mavericks.

It loves to loom over beds in the morning, saying, “You should get up.”

It creeps into living rooms at night and says, “You should go to bed.”

It pops up in restaurants and berates its victim with statements like, “You shouldn’t eat that.”

It shows up in boardrooms, saying, “You should speak up, no, no, you should be quiet.”

It clambers onto race courses and screams, “You should go faster, you should pass him, you should slow down!”

It haunts college campuses, whispering, “You should get a secure job with lots of benefits” and “You should climb the corporate ladder” and “You should get married and have lots of kids and be a perfect parent.”

The Should Monster is a jackass and a bully. It dresses up as an expert of some kind (mine often shows up as a know-it-all businessman) and jumps onto the shoulders of its victims, berating them with its black-and-white thinking and its my-way-or-the-highway attitude. And it loves, just loves, turning empowered people into victims.

To understand the Should Monster’s wily ways, we have to understand its weapons: Should and Shouldn’t. It throws those shitty words around like a chimpanzee throws poop. And how do those words make us feel? The same way we’d feel if a chimp threw feces at us—like a victim. When someone tells us that we should (or shouldn’t) do something, they’re implying that whatever we’re currently doing is wrong. And when we’re told that we’re doing something wrong, we feel shitty.

And here’s the kicker: It’s not actually a horrible beast shoulding all over us, it’s our own internal voice dropping those should-bombs. And that leads us to the horrible truth that we, as humans, have a terrible tendency to be total assholes to ourselves.

BUT it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s one thing that will stop the Should Monster in its tracks: DESIRE.

Now don’t get intimidated by that powerful word. (And don’t go thinking that “desire” has to be sexual because it doesn’t.) A desire is a WANT (that’s an uppercase want). It’s a dream, a goal or a craving. We all have them. We just have to shush the Should Monster long enough to hear them.

So next time you feel the weight of the Should Monster, ask yourself this simple question: “What do I really really want?” And then shake off the shoulds and answer yourself as honestly as you possibly can. Remember that YOU are worthy of doing what you want. And no one, not even a should-throwing Should Monster, can boss you around.