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A Bad Case of the "Shoulds"

By Michele Dortch

Motivation guru Wayne Dyer once said, "You cannot solve a problem by condemning it." Yet this is something working moms do all the time. You face problems you can't solve and your internal voice cries out, I should be able to handle this!

This kind of thinking often occurs in working moms who have perfectionist tendencies - an intense desire for order, structure and follow-through. Perfectionism is poison for working moms and it's down right unrealistic! I figured that out in my first year as a mom. And while I'm not completely perfectionist-free, I have learned some valuable lessons on how to be a better mom, and person, by letting go of certain perfectionist beliefs.

And it all starts with a bad case of the "shoulds."

Since the beginning of your life you've been subjected to "shoulds." You've been told by just about everyone with whom you've interacted what you should and should not do. When you become a working mother the volume of "shoulds" seems to crank up several notches. I remember being in the mall with my infant daughter who was just a few weeks old at the time. I was looking at a rack of clothes when a 60-ish woman came up to me and exhorted, "You should be holding that baby's head better!" then stormed off.

Images of the "ideal" working mom are plastered in media and advertising, your parents and in-laws offer their sage advice and friends pass along their parenting beliefs on to you. Most of the time these are unwanted bits of advice but you take it all in with a smile anyway. After all you've also been trained to believe that you should be polite, never talking back or stating your true beliefs.

In the face of all these powerful life forces, it can be difficult and confusing to figure out which "shoulds" you keep as your high priorities and which you decide to ignore or defer until later.

Here's one important thing to know about "shoulds:" They are formed to support other people's agendas and self-interests, not yours. When you live to fulfill the "shoulds" of others, your life will feel out of balance. This is because you are suppressing your own desires, priorities and passions and replacing them with the desires, priorities and passions of others. There is an obvious gap between what you want and what others want for you and this creates the imbalance.

When was the last time you asked yourself: What am I all about? What do I want?

It may feel selfish to focus on your needs, especially as a working mom. You've formed an unhealthy habit of sacrificing your needs and if you ever do attend to yourself, you are ridden with guilt. It makes sense then, for you to override your natural passions and desires with the "shoulds" of others. The problem is, this behavior creates strong internal conflicts that evenually manifest into stresses and frustrations. Ultimately, you'll undermine the things you want most for you and your family.

Here are some practical ways to eliminate "shoulds" once and for all:

-- Make peace with yourself. Pay attention to the ways you are trying to be someone else. You'll know because you'll feel conflicted, resentful or annoyed. Then decide not to allow what others think to influence your actions.

-- Kick the negative beliefs about yourself. When you feel a negative thought enter your mind, immediately counter it with two positive thoughts. Feel hokey? Well it works! It takes a bit of extra effort on your part, but it comes down to choice. You can be negative or be positive. I choose to be positive"it makes me feel better!

-- Give yourself a time out. When my kids are acting out I sometimes feel like I'm a bad parent, "I should be able to handle them better." This kind of thinking makes me feel angry at myself and then I end up unleashing that anger toward mu children. Not good. Now, when I'm feeling the urge to "should myself, I take a time out. Child experts say that when you give a time out to your kids, it's one minute for every one year of their age. I use that for my time outs too and take 33 minutes at a time.

-- Reconnect with your "true self. When I'm taking my time out, I use the time to reflect on my values, find something inspirational to read, meditate or journal my thoughts (ok and sometimes I call a friend to vent"I am human). Any one of these activities help you reconnect with who you are'something many moms lose sight of.

The bottom line is - you're a better mom when your needs are met and those pesky "shoulds" are eliminated.

Getting your needs met, living by your true priorities and desires, and ignoring the endless dialogue of "shoulds" is not a selfish act. It's actually the opposite! When you take time to discover the forces that naturally motivate you and live according to your intuitive feelings, you'll eliminate your daily stress and frustrations. As a result, you'll have more energy because the internal conflicts that used to drain you will be gone. You'll live a happier life. You'll be healthier. You'll make better decisions. You'll be more motivated. You'll develop more meaningful relationships. You'll become more attractive to others. You'll be less confused and conflicted.

You'll be a "perfect" mom.

About The Author
Michele Dortch is the Founder of The Integrated Mother, a nationwide coaching and personal development company providing work+life solutions for working mothers, and their employers.s

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