No. 118

The S Word

In the autumn, I learned that “goddamn” gives most people a near heart attack down here in southwest Virginia. After years in New York City, words like that just slip off my tongue, and I don’t think much of them because I believe there are bigger things to be offended by. But here, there are no words more horrible in the English language, no words that could curse a person more. And yet there is one word we all stand cursed by, one we use every day, one used against us nearly every day.


I should do this. He should have done that. You should say this. She should dress like this. They should be this way instead.

‘Should’s have become our shackles.

They have kept me from this space. I have spent months wondering what I  should write, what I should I do to grow my audience again, how often I should post, what photos I should use…

‘Should’s have challenged the happiness I’ve found. Apparently I should want a corporate job with good pay, job security, great benefits, and free lunches. I should finish my master’s thesis so two years in California weren’t a waste of my time. I should move to a city I fell in love with over a decade ago, even if I don’t want that lifestyle any longer, because that city is where great people congregate. I should want to have babies, especially now that I’m in my early 30s. I should choose more money over freedom. I should be more sensible and think with my head rather than my heart.

Those ‘should’s have never made me feel good. They sit in my stomach, they weigh on my chest, they steal my radiance. But these expectations only haunt me. For some people, these ‘should’s aren’t ‘should’s at all. They may be exactly what’s right for them. But we are all troubled by ‘should’s of some sort.

I’m tired of these shackles. I’m done shoulding and shaming myself.

This is me. This is my joy: words and images and sharing whatever light I find inside myself. My purpose is this moment, this conversation we have, the way we weave in and out of each other’s lives.

The only things I expect of myself from this point forward are greatness, growth, and love.

What “should” do you need to unshackle yourself from?

About brandi

Brandi is a digital strategist, website developer, and founder of Alchemy+Aim, a company that helps entrepreneurs and business owners elevate their online presence and enhance their digital experience. Her academic background in theatre, philosophy and physics was the perfect foundation for launching her business, where she’s worked with Brené Brown, Laverne Cox, Judy Smith, and other notable thought leaders since 2013. She is an advocate for using technology in ways that humanize, connect and serve people as well as for asking deeper philosophical questions and teaching others to think more broadly about impact when they create, particularly in STEAM fields.

10 thoughts on “The S Word

  1. Brandi, that’s beautiful. It’s an apt description for all people, especially women our age, who are trying to figure out their heart’s path versus what is societally expected of them. I have felt that insecurity and “should”-fulness a lot over the past few years, and I’m not sure I have everything sorted out, but you express the sentiment exactly as I’ve felt it – thank you.

  2. Beautifully said. I struggle with ‘should’s all the time – for myself and when other people use it in a critique or feedback. It’s a constant battle to just live life rather than living the life you think you should have.

  3. Oh yes! Should has been banned from my vocab. Much like ‘can’t’. Bad words in my life. If I really should have done something, I would have. Otherwise it was my choice not to and I’m going to buck up recognize that I made that choice and accept the consequences. So yes. No more shoulds.

    1. Oooh, “can’t” is definitely another super dangerous word. Part of me wants to allow some “can’t”s, for things like physical impossibilities (I probably can’t live inside an active volcano), but I think we’re discovering that even some of the things we thought weren’t possible really are when we start to think differently.

  4. This was a good one. There are plenty of ‘shoulds’ that are good for me and there are those that are bad as well. I’ve realized the only shoulds I really need to listen to are my own and not others’ – they typically don’t have to live with the results day in and day out but I do

  5. Such a great point. I wonder how many times a day I think or say the word ‘should’. I’m even having to stop myself right now from typing ‘I shouldn’t do that anymore’. Good grief, human beings sure are easy to program, aren’t we? Then again, if it’s that easy to program ‘shoulds’ into our lives, it will be just as easy to program them out.

    Lately, it’s been I should be using any extra money I have to pay off debt, but I really want to buy a computer so I can learn French. I should be going to yoga and getting more exercise, but this week I just want to relax and let myself be. Sometimes, I think the heart knows best.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *