What does the person who tells you what you’re supposed to do look like?
Have you thought about this? That sense of duty, that sense of judgment. Does it have a face?
Maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about, and you have permission to stop reading, because you must live in a world in which you never feel the weight of “supposed to” and “should,” and I’m very jealous, and you should return to that world right away before you get any notion there’s anything else.
For the rest of us, though, what is the personification of this “supposed to?” Is it your mother or father, a teacher from your past, a composite character pulling from every authority figure in your life?
For me, it’s the latter, a big cloud of opinions and voices, all of whom have something to say about the decisions I make. Yes, the inner critic voice is usually particularly strong (she’s an old school marm who tells me not to try something unless it’s perfect), but that’s not really what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the chorus behind her, who want to pull me down the path of least resistance.
I suppose you could say that my cloud of “supposed to” represents an idea of perfect, of impossible standards, of striving towards something that was set out by others, by society, by expectation.
I have always been very good at listening to these voices. I never wanted to rock the boat or cause drama, so I usually would do my best to keep these voices silent, as well as the people in my life satisfied. To me, satisfied means doing what I’m “supposed to,” which, to me, looks like no drama, no disappointment, no whispered, “did you hear what Erin did?” Just fly under the radar, be good and smart and work hard and be successful in a conventional way.
Just writing that now seems boring and unfulfilling. So it’s perhaps no wonder that I have a very strong sense lately, that it’s not enough. That I’m wanting more. Maybe not more, but certainly different. Not different in a quit-my-job-move-to-Bali kind of way, either, but in a way that puts me feeling in charge and driving, rather than letting those voices pull me along while I remain passive and indecisive. And that’s about small adjustments, not epic adventures. It’s about redefining the “supposed to” to fit what I want for my life, not what I think anyone else wants, not what those voices want.
Old habits die hard, and it’s apparent that my hurdle will be even identifying what it is, truly, that I want. What is the desire if I take away all those voices? What is mine saying?