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The 11th Commandment: "Thou Shalt Not Should on Thyself (or others)."

by Michael Angier

I've spent far too many years of my life caring too much about what other people thought. I was a magnet for people telling me what to do. And I let them "should" on me--a lot. As a result, I made some very poor decisions based upon "expert" advice that was totally contrary to what I knew in my heart was the right thing to do.

When someone I cared about would give me advice, I'd feel bad if I didn't follow their recommendation. Maybe I just didn't trust myself enough to follow my heart--or didn't know how. I found it easy to feel guilty about what I did or didn't do--simply because it didn't match the views of others I respected.

Most everyone has an opinion about what you should do. It takes a strong resolve to become clear and stay true to your inner guidance system. It's one of the toughest things to learn.

I had to become aware that guilt was literally running my life. It took several years and some painful mistakes to overcome this disease of the mind, but I did. Somehow, I believed that I wasn't a good person if I didn't please people. Like everyone, I've made mistakes and sometimes even hurt people I didn't intend to. But I've hurt myself and others far more by trying to please people than by not. Herbert Bayard Swope said, "I cannot give you a formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure which is: Try to please everybody." Staying true to yourself isn't easy, but I think it's the only way to live.

Many people feel shame for no reason other than the misplaced opinion of others. They feel bad because of mistakes they've made and because of the "shoulds" of others. Feeling bad doesn't accomplish anything. Guilt has no virtue. Operating out of obligation and guilt lacks integrity. Don't do it.

I'm not saying that you should (there's that word again) totally disregard the information and advice put to you. I'm simply suggesting that you evaluate the information, listen carefully to your heart and do what you think is right. Just because someone is a travel agent for guilt trips doesn't mean we have to buy their tickets.

No one can walk in your shoes. No one can live your life. Ultimately, it's you who must answer to how you have lived. We all need to learn the art of correction without invalidation-to see our errors, learn from them and move on-without self-condemnation.

If you feel remorse about something you've done or failed to do, take action. If you can make amends, do so. If you can't, forgive yourself and move on. Vow not to make the same mistake again. If God can forgive you (most religions teach that He does), then you can forgive yourself.

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