Should you really? yeahwrite#303nonfiction
“I need a new profile pic for my Facebook,” she said, smiling sweetly and persuasively.
“The last one is also one that you took.”
There it came again – the request for photos. Politely phrased, and flattering as it was it generated pressure within me. The stress of a job left undone. Or was it? It wasn’t after all my job but a favour I’d done her. Who hasn’t felt that? The pressure to finish something, to complete it, send it off and be done with it? It’s as positive, productive and useful an approach as the reason adrenaline courses in our systems. Adrenaline protects us, preparing us to fight or flee – a not so relevant reaction in today’s ‘civilised’ world. A world where actions other than fighting or fleeing ensure your survival. You’d better not whip out your sword at your place of work, and running from it isn’t an option either. Your fighting needs to be confined to picking your battles and then speaking firmly and reasonably. Your fleeing can only be in the form of looking for another job.
Let’s return to the invisible pressure to ‘complete’ tasks. It’s a great thing. It’s how one finishes things. But is it as simple as that. What if you have 21 things to finish? That’s when the stress begins to increase. You’ve been programmed by your parents and upbringing to care, to finish things, to put them behind you. How many times have I heard, “I’m reading this book that I don’t really like, but I’m not going to give up on it.” And my friend keeps reading half heartedly, gaining nothing from the exercise that she’s undertaken for pleasure but that has now become an exercise in self control.
I’ve heard the same reason for staying in a marriage that’s unhappy, where every stone has been turned over, every route to happiness trodden unsuccessfully, and yet – “I won’t give up on it.” Simply for the sake of not giving up on something.
‘Not giving up’ can become its own trap.
Just as, ‘Finishing everything I start’ is another trap.
Either you choose very carefully what you will start – because you’ve given yourself no option but to see it through – and even then you may make the wrong choice because, after all, you can’t know everything, you can’t see into the future, you don’t know how things will unfold. But you’ve decided beforehand that the thing you have chosen will always be worth fighting for or finishing.
We need to learn to reassess what’s important, what’s worth completing and whether it still fits in with our larger view for our lives.
When you feel the pressure, ask yourself whether it’s the most important thing you need to do. Are you doing it because it’s uncomfortable to have those appeals being made to you? Or are you doing it because it’s high up on your list of priorities? Which could include your integrity. Keeping a promise you made to someone. Perhaps its wise not to make too many promises?
To get back to my dilemma of incomplete tasks – my priority is my writing and my work. Sending photographs to people is a favour I’m doing them. When the appeals and the requests come in a steady pitter patter of raindrops I rethink. I look at my priorities – and I see I didn’t have time to write that story doing the bumble bee buzz in my head, some reports for my job are hovering mosquito-like over me, threatening to bite – the least irritating would be the sting from the bite itself, the most – malaria? Or dengue fever?
Sending photos still isn’t that important.
There is now an added feature of discomfort – the irritation of reminder. The photos have become associated with irritation, they’ve lost all ability to give me pleasure and I know, I will now receive scant thanks when I do send them. This task slides even lower on my to-do list. That is the effect of nagging. That’s how it works. It’s unpleasant, a power game, passive aggressive and ineffective.
We can’t control the person who nags. That’s their journey. What we can do is develop the strength to do the thing they are nagging about when we want to do it. Not because we want to shut them up – because that’s operating from a place of weakness. Not because we feel pressure. It takes mental strength to withstand pressure – partly because school, parents, spouses and others train you to buckle under the pressure – it isn’t convenient to have strong people around – those who can say ‘no’ and refuse to do things that other people want. Compliant, sensitive people who do everybody’s bidding are easier to control.
Do you want to be easy to control? Do you give in to pressurizing? Do you make things difficult for yourself by having ‘should’ echoing inside you? Such as,
“I should finish whatever I begin.”
“I shouldn’t have begun this if I didn’t mean to see it through.”
“I should stay in this marriage because marriages are meant to last.”
If something isn’t working for you, you need to give it up. The only sign of whether you’re being true to yourself is your feeling of happiness and contentment. If you don’t feel that you’re operating under a ‘should.’ Or maybe even a ‘shouldn’t’. Throw it away. Tune into your true self and still that voice that speaks inside your head without your permission. It isn’t your voice – it’s a voice planted there by society, to make you malleable and pliable.
When was the last time you quieted the ‘should’ or the ‘shouldn’t’ and felt truly free as a result?