Our brains have evolved to be efficient and save time, which has been advantageous to us humans because it’s gotten us here, to this point.
It uses its prior beliefs to shape our perception of what could happen in the future: how things should be. However, that same function can also get in our way, and this what I’m diving into today.
If you spend some time looking at all the different areas of your life, you’ll start to notice many “shoulds” appearing everywhere. I should weigh a certain amount. I should be a certain size. I should be able to do more… the list goes on.
Our “should” lenses are a reflection of all the expectations we have of ourselves, and this often leads to a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering.
Join me this week as I show you how your “shoulds” are playing a part in any negative feeling that you may have, whether it’s about your body, or weight, or anything else. You have the ability to take this lens off, and I’m offering you a series of questions that you can ask yourself to do this, so that you can live with more compassion and design a life you love on purpose.
This is Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown, episode seven.
Welcome to Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you’re a successful woman who is ready to stop struggling with your weight, you’re in the right place. You’ll learn everything you need to know to lose weight for the last time in bitesize pieces. Here’s your host, certified life and weight coach Natalie Brown.
Hello everyone. Welcome to the podcast today. The other day, my daughter made the comment that it was so weird that we can already know what something will feel like before we actually touch it, just by looking at it. Even if we’ve never touched it before. It’s kind of a crazy concept, right?
Look around the room that you’re currently in, or your car or whatever, and focus on an object. Imagine what it will feel like if you run your fingers over it or pick it up. You can almost experience it in your mind without experiencing it with your hands, can’t you? It’s so fascinating.
So this sparked a whole discussion amongst my family and I about how this is possible, and even some examples of when your brain thinks something will feel a certain way and then it feels totally different, and what a trip that is. Most of the examples we came up with of the latter were animals, like stingrays and snakes that we think would be slimy but they feel different.
I think this is such a cool function of our brain and it ties back to that idea that we discussed previously that when we try to imagine our future, both our imagination and our memory centers get involved. Our brain uses its prior beliefs to shape our perception of what will happen in the future. This saves us so much energy.
We don’t have to figure out exactly what and how to do the things we’ve already done, like brush our teeth, or drive a car. Our brain is a magnificent problem-solver, and that’s one of the many evolutionary advantages we have as humans that has gotten us to this point.
However, this same function of using prior beliefs to shape our expectations also gets in our way if we don’t get our rational adult brain involved. And that’s what I want to talk about today. When you think about the frustrations you have with your body, your relationship with food, your weight loss, yourself as a human, you’ll notice that the frustration you feel is based on the expectations you have about how things should be.
I should weigh a certain amount; I should be a certain size. I should not crave sugar. I should be able to lose weight quickly. It should feel easy. I should be able to do more. I should be patient with my children and not yell. I should get to bed earlier. So many shoulds.
I bet if you took the time, you could list hundreds of shoulds that govern how you think, feel, and show up in your life. But have you ever questioned where those shoulds came from? I love this quote from Stephen Covey. “Frustration is a function of our expectations and our expectations are often a reflection of the social mirror, rather than our own values and priorities.”
We think our willpower, our genetics, our temperament, our kids, other people are the problem, are the reason we can’t lose weight, and we feel frustrated with our bodies and our lives. But it’s our expectations that are the problem. We’re all walking around seeing life through our own should lenses.
These lenses are shaped by the way we were raised, our parents, our beliefs, our culture, our families. We see ourselves and the world through this lens of expectation, which puts us in an almost constant argument with reality. We’re rarely looking at who we are and what is, and are instead focused on who we aren’t and what isn’t.
I recently heard a parable that I think illustrates this. A woman in a rush to get to her next meeting orders an Uber. When it arrives and she goes to get in, the inside is so messy she has to move garbage and stuff off the seat. She’s irritated as she’s handing the garbage to the Uber driver. She’s got all sorts of shoulds happening.
Ubers should be clean; she shouldn’t have to clean up after this stranger when she’s paying him to drive her. He should be apologetic and more helpful and considerate. As she sits down, she notices a woman standing outside of the car. The driver and this woman are looking at each other kind of puzzled.
It’s only then that this woman in the car realizes, this is not her Uber. This is the woman’s husband and he’s come to pick up his wife. Now the shoulds turn inward. She should be more aware. She should be less judgmental. She should apologize. And the irritation turns to embarrassment.
It’s not a messy car or a mistake that create the feelings here. It’s the expectation that it should be different than it is. You may notice that there are people in the world who eat without much thought and they remain at their natural weight. They want a donut, they eat it. They want to order French toast for breakfast or drink Coke or hit Taco Bell at 11pm, they do it and they don’t gain weight.
You think the thought, “I should be able to eat what I want and not gain weight too.” But the reality is that it is not how your body functions. Arguing with this reality is the same as me thinking, “I should be 5’10 and have naturally curly hair,” when I’m actually 5’3 and my hair is bone straight.
I can think, “I should be different than I am,” but it doesn’t change things. And really, it only causes me to feel frustration and envy of other people who are 5’10 with naturally curly hair. Learning how to change your habits and your relationship with food can feel challenging, especially when you’re using willpower to white-knuckle it through the process.
I’m sure many of you have felt this struggle and thought, “Losing weight should be easier.” Through this should lens, the struggle is magnified and it’s all we see. Just the hard. We lose sight of why we’re doing it, of what’s on the other side of the struggle.
And most of us either decide to take extreme measures like eating only grapefruit or taking medication to lose weight or we give up as a result of the hard. The reality is changing our habits and relationship with food takes time. It takes effort and it takes patience. Expecting it to come easily or quickly just causes frustration and discouragement, which are not typically feelings that drive us to keep going.
Anyone have other life improvements you want to make based on shoulds? Like I should work out every day, or I should meditate, or I should be taking time for myself. I have one I have been wrestling with. You may have this one too. I should have a better morning routine.
This whole emphasis on a morning routine thing is fairly new, but it seems like everyone who’s anyone is talking about how their morning routine changed everything and it’s the key to their success, happiness, wellbeing, all of it. And I’m like, well, I want more success and happiness and wellbeing. I should have a morning routine.
In my mind, this is what that looks like. I get up at 4am and I meditate and I do yoga and I watch the sunrise in silence as I ponder my existence. And then I journal and I take my supplements and I go for a run on the beach, get fresh air and do some reading. And then I do an avocado face mask and a body scrub and I am ready to take on my day.
Okay, the reality of my life looks very different than this. First of all, I don’t live near the beach so that’s one problem with this whole scenario. Second of all, that would take me like, six hours. And lastly, I don’t live by myself on an island. I live in a house with a puppy. That alone should tell you a lot about what I’m dealing with here.
I also live with another dog and four other humans, half of who are teenagers, and one who is my husband, who rely on me for things and like to have conversations with me. Many nights I go to bed at 11pm, after I’ve driven dance carpool and everyone’s tucked in and I have spent some time watching mindless TV and chatting with my husband.
I value sleep and time with them over getting up at 4am on those nights. So my morning routine looks more like some days I get up and go to work out at Orange Theory. Most days I sleep in until it’s time to get up and let my puppy out and get my daughter up for school.
I help her get ready and get her lunch made and get her to the bus and then I get myself showered and ready to coach my clients. Sometimes I listen to a podcast while I get ready, for me. That’s my me time. I make time some days to meditate. I make time some days to go for a walk, for some fresh air. Some days I just take deep breaths of fresh air as I walk the 20 steps outside to my office.
I make some time some days to read. I make time most days to do thought work and journal, but what has been happening a lot lately is really just me feeling frustrated and inadequate because I keep thinking I should have a better morning routine.
Typically, the fine print of our shoulds is that we should because good moms, good people, valuable humans do these things. And so if we do, our worth and value will be increased. My belief is that successful people have morning routines. I value success and so the story my brain wants to convince me is true is that I should have a morning routine in order to be valuable.
The urgency and importance and subsequent pain we feel around our shoulds is a result of these shoulds being tethered to our worth and value. Many of our shoulds feel like a moral necessity. I should be kind, I should be unselfish, I should be whatever, in order to be good.
Because of all of this, we see our shoulds as noble and moral, keeping us in line, showing us what’s right, necessary. But clinging to these shoulds to make us better is like eating a little bit of poison every day, thinking we’ll build up a tolerance and it will make us stronger.
The reality is it just keeps us sick. The antidote to the poison of shoulds is acceptance. Taking off the lens of should and seeing you and your life for what they currently are. Instead of the thought, “I should be,” and observing what you currently are not, choosing the thought, “I am,” and seeing what you currently are. The good, the bad, and the ugly. All of it.
Acceptance does not mean resignation and stagnation like most of us think it will. We think if we look at our lives and we see them for what they are and we accept it, we will then have no motivation to make changes or improvements. We don’t have to choose to believe this is just who I am, it is what it is, with vitriol and disgust.
We can choose to think this is who I am right now, with compassion and hope, and then choose on purpose to design a life full of thoughts that begin with I want and I will. So where do we begin to see things differently? How do we take off these should lenses?
First, you have to identify your shoulds. And then get to work questioning them. You know I want you to question everything, right? What shoulds do you see showing up in your life? Go through the different areas of your life and notice what your brain is thinking should be different than it is. Where do these shoulds come from?
Try to think back to where the should originated. We want to consider the source. Why should I be this way or look this way or do these things? Why is it better? Who says? Who decided this was better? Why do I value their thoughts over mine? And lastly, do I want to keep believing it is true?
Okay my loves, don’t forget to head to iTunes and subscribe, rate, and review please. I’m giving away $100 Amazon gift cards and a part of AirPods Pros to some super lucky listeners who do this. So go over to iTunes and do it please. I’ll be announcing the winners on an upcoming podcast so stay tuned. I’ll see you soon.
Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you want to learn more about how to lose weight for the last time, come on over to itbeginswithathought.com. We’ll see you here next week.