The problem with ‘should’

I’ve been thinking this afternoon about how often our behaviour, thoughts, and feelings are influenced by all the ‘shoulds’ we carry round in our heads.

You know the ones: ‘I should be more ambitious’; ‘I should be thinner’; ‘I should be grateful’; ‘I should be more sociable’…the list goes on and on.

Much of the time, our shoulds aren’t really ours at all. They come from other people, or our childhood, or wider society, and they can push us into doing things that don’t really sit right, or stop us from doing things we want to do.

They can also have guilt or ‘not good enough’ attached to them, neither of which are particularly helpful in large doses.

I try to pause when a should pops up, and examine it a bit. Should I? Do I really want to, or is this something I feel pressured to do from the outside? Does this thing fit with my values? Will doing it make me feel fulfilment or satisfaction? Will doing this be a good option in the long term?

Most ‘I shoulds’ can actually be rewritten as ‘I coulds’. That gives you a choice, rather than an expectation: ‘I could be more sociable, but I’m really comfortable in my own company’ or ‘I could be more sociable, and actually it might be fun to catch up with friends’.

Choices are empowering, and allow us to live in a way that honours our values and beliefs. Don’t let the shoulds get in the way of that.

Don’t should on yourself.

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