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Here’s Exactly What You ‘Should’ Do

Here’s Exactly What You ‘Should’ Do

You really should pay attention to what I’m going to tell you next.

You should be able to understand it easily, and you should start practicing it immediately.

You really should…. Shouldn’t you???

My message to you: You really should stop “should-ing” on yourself!

Imposing “should statements” on yourself is stress-inducing and guaranteed to keep you anxious, tense, and feeling bad about yourself. Should statements lower self-esteem and self-confidence. By shoulding on yourself, you constantly remind yourself of all the ways that you are falling short…

  • I should be totally self-reliant.
  • I should be able to do it right.
  • I should have done a better job.
  • I should make more money.

Black and White Thinking

Shoulblackwhite-stencild statements are rigidly focused on how you think things ought to be, rather than focused on the reality of how things are.

Shoulds are often laced with extreme “all-or-nothing thinking,” which makes success difficult, if not impossible, leaving you with the extreme opposite: failure.

Therefore, shoulding on yourself is often a setup for feeling guilty, wrong or not good enough… 

  • I should exercise every day and always eat right.
  • I should never get tired or sick.
  • I should never make mistakes.
  • I should always know the right thing to do.

Shoulding on Others

When you direct should statements at other people, you are guaranteed to feel angry and frustrated since others will invariably do things you don’t think they “should” do… 
  • They should act their age.
  • He should stop making me so angry.
  • She should wear nicer clothes.

Shoulds Represent Rigid Thinking

When you rely on “should statements,” you tend to have rigid rules or standards (mostly set by yourself), that always need to be followed. It’s difficult to see flexibility in various circumstances, and trying to live up to these self-imposed expectations adds considerable stress to life. Each time you have a should thought, you add a small weight to your shoulders.

Shoulds are Perfectionistic

Shoulding on yourself is an example of perfectionist thinking. Perfectionism is an irrational belief that everything must be perfect. Why is this irrational? Can anything in life really be perfect? Do we all agree on the definition of perfect anyway? Perfectionistic thinking is a setup for disappointment. It can also lead you to the belief that “life is difficult.” After all, with the weight of all kinds of “shoulds” on your shoulders, life would be difficult!

How to Shift Your Shoulds  should-dreamstime_xs_45710292

1. Catch Yourself In the Act. First, notice how often you (and others) use should statements. You have to really listen for it. 

2. Write Down Your “Shoulds.” As you become aware of times you should on yourself, write them down. Review each one and write down how it feels when you think each of those should thoughts. Restrictive or Expansive? Closed or Open? Negative or Positive? When you think that thought, how do you feel: Mad, Sad, Glad or Scared?

3. Question: What am I really telling myself when I should on myself? Do I really want to do this to myself? Do I really want to stay upset?

4. Switch your language. Try substituting COULD. This demonstrates that you and others have choices and options, which is more empowering and less judgemental. [I could make more money. She could wear nicer clothes. I could exercise every day.] This will work for some of your shoulds.

5. Turn it around. Write down alternative counterstatements to the should thoughts. Find something more rational, positive, flexible, or self-supportive. [I could be totally self-reliant but that’s not really necessary because there are plenty of people who would help me out. I did my best in that situation and I learned a few things as well. It’s OK to make mistakes because I’m human like everyone else.]

6. It’s OK to accept who you are. What if you let go of what you “should do” and how you “should be” and simply allowed yourself to be who you are today? You’re OK. In fact, you’re magnificent. You just have to allow yourself to see it that way.

Need a little more clarity?  Check this out…


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