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All our lives we’re told how we should act, what we should do and who we should be. Well. I’m throwing out the “shoulds” and letting go of my “Ideal Self”, and I’m finding who I really am.
As infants, our parents dressed us how they wanted. As toddlers, adults (and older kids) told us what they wanted us to do. In school, teachers told us how they wanted us to behave.
And while each of those is an integral part of growing up and learning how to function in the world, somewhere along the way we have lost an important part of finding ourselves.
I’m thirty years old, and I still feel like I “should” be doing everything the way others want me too.
Somewhere in the young adult years, we’re supposed to be able to critically separate advice from others from our way in the world. But most of us don’t do that, so we create a monster instead.
The Ideal Self.
My Ideal Self is a woman that was created by every person I’ve ever met. She is a combination of all the shoulds, all the pressures, all the expectations, and all the dreams.
When we create our Ideal Self, we often include portions of things we love and enjoy, but truth be told, they are so complex and unreasonable that we lose sight of the things we want as they are discolored by what everyone else wants.
What My Ideal Self Looks Like
Let’s look at an example.
My Ideal Self is a multi-tasking miracle worker.
She gets dressed up all fancy every morning (I’m talking dresses and heels), hair styled, and makeup and jewelry included. She gets three super-focused hours of work done each morning before her family wakes.
Then she has a leisurely morning for cooking breakfast, cleaning and organizing the house, homeschooling with a steady routine, reads a basket of books, gardens outside, goes for a walk, cleans the house, does the dishes, does crafts and activities with the kids, scrapbooks, reads her own books, pays the bills, manages the house.
All before noon.
Then in the afternoon she makes a healthy raw food lunch, takes the kids on nature outings and adventures, has no use for screen time, gorgeously decorated home, keeps up with friends and family, runs an impeccable budget, cooks a raw food dinner, has a perfectly clean kitchen, lives on a farm, doesn’t need to drink coffee, is in perfect health, sings, dances, goes out in the evenings, and does. it. all.
If those run-on sentences are exhausting to read, it’s because they are downright impossible.
And it’s just a guess, but I’m pretty sure that your ideal self sounds about the same. It’s some version of expectations and perfection that we feel people are judging us about.
See, I thought I could do it all. (Soul crushing realization — I can’t.)
I thought I could be it all. (Sadly, I can’t. I lose my temper and let my family down all too often).
I thought that someday I could make it all work.
I thought that if I just tried harder and sacrificed more, THEN, I could make it all happen.
But that’s not how life works.
How to Declutter Your Ideal Self
Minimalism has brought to light that I’ve been hoarding a lot of things for my ideal self. You probably are too.
- stacks and stacks of unread business and self-help books
- piles of papers, courses, DVDs, CDs, and notes that I will someday study
- clothes and shoes in colors and styles I never wear but always intended to
- boxes and shelves of scrapbooking and arts and crafts supplies that haven’t been touched in 10 years, if ever
- bins of old letters, photos, and journals because…someday I might want to look at them again
- collections of all the “latest trends” that some friend said you had to have
- supplements for weight loss, clothes in a smaller size, anything for “when I …”
As I started letting go and setting my ideal self free. I realized some things.
I won’t be going back to my old career. Those books and papers and records can go.
I don’t really enjoy scrapbooking. Those materials can go.
I don’t do fancy cooking. Those extra untouched kitchen tools can go.
I don’t want to hold onto painful memories of the past. Those old pictures and letters that bring up negative memories can go. (Side note–I urge you to NOT let go of all your sentimental stuff that bring good memories–I’m talking about a few specific things that clearly keep me from moving on with life).
I only wear black shoes. All the light colors can go.
Day after day, little by little, I’ve realized how my Ideal Self has held me back and as I let go of the “I shoulds”, I’ve uncovered what I truly love.
Making Room for Who You Really Are
Instead of being held back by Ideal Self clutter, I now have room to design a pretty, inspiring desk to write at.
I have a clear shelf to organize our homeschooling materials.
I have clear office space to read, write, dream, and invite my daughter to create with me.
I have a capsule wardrobe and a few shoes that I love to wear. All of them.
I feel the freedom to enjoy reading a book to my daughter without the guilt of all the things I should be doing (well, for the most part).
Best of all, I’ve discovered who I really am. I’m passionate about writing, speaking life, organizing, planning, creating systems, teaching, simplifying, exploring nature, reading and learning, nurturing, creating, natural living, aromatherapy, and simple beauty.
My home and life need to reflect THOSE passions. While my Ideal Self had pieces of those, she also had a lot of needless, distracting and stressful fluff. Release the fluff and you find the truth.
This month, June 2019, I’m taking on The Minimalist Game Decluttering Challenge for the second time. I’m dedicating this month to going through and letting go of “ideal self” clutter.
Final Thoughts on Your Ideal Self
Letting go of your ideal self may take weeks, months, perhaps even years, as you think piece by piece about whether you truly value each concept or idea. But once you get started, you might find it easier than you thought to keep going and move on.
Take one pile of “should” clutter and let it go. Most things that have gone untouched for years are somehow connected to things we should do, or maybe even want to do, but know we aren’t really fully invested in them.
If you choose to read all those books you “should” read, or finish those projects “just because you should”, you’re actually wasting precious time and energy that could be going towards your true passions.
“Shoulds” belong in the donation pile, whether it’s mental, emotional or physical clutter. Ditch the shoulds–you’ll be glad you did!