Do you ever tell yourself that you “should” or “shouldn’t” do something?
Have you ever said any of the following?
I should lose weight.
I should be a better person.
I shouldn’t go to bed so late.
I should work harder.
According to a health coach, using the words “should” and “shouldn’t” can be self-defeating and lead to feelings of guilt, incompetence, failure, and even a lack of self-control [1.1]. Although your intention behind using these phrases might be to help you, they often end up doing more harm than good.
“Shoulding” becomes a problem when it becomes an automatic thought. In these cases, the “should” comes to us as a natural thought or reaction, and we end up feeling guilty if we don’t do what we “should” do or do something that we “shouldn’t” do[1.1].From my experience, the following quote holds true – “feeling guilty and overwhelmed breeds inaction and stagnancy…it keeps you stuck. So, the more you feel like you “should” do something, the less likely you’ll do it.” [1.1]
We often “should” on ourselves because we are comparing ourselves to something or someone else, which is not healthy - especially with all of the unrealistic expectations that can be garnered from social media nowadays. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. If you’re constantly comparing yourself to others, and likely thereafter “shoulding” on yourself, then you’re not going to be satisfied or happy with the great progress that you do make!
Ready to stop “shoulding” in its tracks?
Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals: Set Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-focused, and Time-bound (S.M.A.R.T) goals to create clear plans, as opposed to the general ideations that come from comparisons and often lead to “shoulding”. You can use your goals to counter any should statements that come to mind [1.1].
Be Self-Compassionate: You might be “shoulding” as a form of negative self-talk. Try to get to the cause of why you might be doing this, and change it by practicing positive affection towards yourself and appreciating the things that you can do as opposed to hating on yourself for the things that you should do.