Lighten Up and Quit Shoulding On Yourself!
How often do you tell yourself that you ‘should’ do something?
I should call my mother.
I should bake something for the bake sale.
I should tackle that mountain of paperwork.
I should turn off my phone and get to sleep.
Notice too how often you ‘must’ be doing something?
I must get to the gym.
I must shave my legs.
I must start dinner.
I must take the dog for a walk.
Obviously you do have responsibilities and obligations and there are plenty things you must and should do. But there’s also a lot of unnecessary ‘musterbating’ and ‘shoulding’ on yourself. You can end up feeling like your whole life is one boooooring obligation after another.
‘Should’ makes you feel guilty, disinterested, bored and possibly even resentful.
How about replacing ‘should’ with a word that feels better:
Notice the subtle shift when ‘must’ and ‘should’ are turned into ‘could’.
I could call my mother. Your thinking shifts to why it’s probably a good idea.
I could take the dog for a walk. Suddenly it feels like it’s in your hands. You switch into a more positive, proactive frame of mind.
I could bake something for the bake sale. But I don’t have to. As a matter of fact, I always do it and this week I really can’t spare the time – so I’m not going to. (You’ve just made a choice. You’re not doing something just because you think you SHOULD.)
Begin to notice how you often you think or say ‘should’. Include times when you think other people ’should’ have said or done something. ‘He should have called me back.’ ‘She should have thanked me.’
When too many of your ‘shoulds’ are driven by things such as worrying about what others think, wanting to be liked, or a fear of letting others down, you’re living your life behind a wall of responsibilities and obligations. You never have a chance to do things you want to be doing.
Likewise, if you place too many expectations on others and how they ‘should’ behave, you’re handing them the power to control your emotions. Don’t get caught up in it. Let it go whenever possible.
I now make inverted commas with my fingers when I say ‘should’ to remind myself to take it lightly. I smile when I catch myself thinking I ‘should’ or I ‘must’ do something.
The more I’ve practiced dropping these words from my life, the more freedom I feel. I do things because they make sense for me to do them, not because I feel I HAVE to.
Try it for yourself and notice what happens.
In the comments below, write 1-3 things you think you ‘should’ be doing. Then write them again with ‘could’. Does the new version feel more lighthearted and less obligatory? Does it make you feel more in control and like you’d be doing it because you know the benefits? Maybe it even releases you from feeling like you ‘must’ do it at all?
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