Perhaps language is nothing but a string of words we assemble like beads on a necklace, or maybe language creates the world as we experience it. Somehow, language influences the way we feel, the way we perceive others’ intentions and meaning, and the way we live our lives.
One of the most striking examples is our use of the modals “must” and “have to,” both of which weigh more heavily on us than we would imagine. I personally find myself using them so often that sometimes it feels as though my entire life had become an obligation. I have to do the dishes. I must work. I have to paint. I must write in the blog. I have to post a drawing on Instagram. I must read. I must exercise. I have to be successful. I have to be pretty. I must not eat too much sugar. I must not use any plastic. I have to do something meaningful now. I have to shower. I have to cook… Even the smallest things, or even the things I love doing the most become duties, responsibilities, necessities and orders that I give myself when I use “must,” “mustn’t,” and “have to.”
Every time I tell myself that I have to do this or that, my willingness to actually do it decreases and I find myself finding every possible excuse not to do it or every imaginable other task that I can do first. The result is I do not draw, I do not paint, I do not write in this blog – as is clearly visible from the time lapse between each of my posts – I do not take care of myself and I do not work. I am not even sure what I do with my time. The worst part is that I love all of the activities above. As to the things I order myself NOT to do – well, I invariably end up doing more of those. So the vicious circle works: you do what you don’t want to do because you don’t want to feel constrained and ordered around (even by yourself) and you don’t do what you love, and you feel like a waste of time and a little bit of a wretch.
Something completely different happens when you tell yourself “I want to” though. I’ve come to realize that if I say: “I want to work” or “I want to paint” or “I really feel like dancing now,” I am much more likely to do what I was thinking about and also to enjoy myself. Obviously, working on my doctoral thesis is not exactly fun, but it’s stimulating and there’s something exhilarating about it. That’s how I experience work when I keep in mind that I want to do it and that it is meaningful to me. The same goes for painting and drawing – it can be hard, I can get very disappointed in the end result or I can feel the ideas in my head are always much, much better than what I can actually come up with on paper, but still. I love it – it makes me feel relaxed and energized at the same time, but it only does when I do not see it as an obligation.
Living and feeling is hard enough as it is – making everything a responsibility and duty only makes it worse; so from now on, I’ll try and change the way I speak. Less of “have-to” and “must” and more of “want to” and “feel like” so I let off some steam and actually enjoy myself, which is also the best way to be more loving and compassionate.
Would you try and do the same? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box !