I really want to ________, but I shouldn’t. I really should be more ________. I tried ________, but I should have known better. I shouldn’t let ________ get to me. We could enter any number of things into these blank spaces. Should is a dangerous word. We use it to measure our perceived shortcomings.
I work as a counselor and the word should often rears its ugly head in conversations with clients. When should is used, the client is often expressing a feeling of inadequacy. They are feeling inadequate because the choices that they have made go against what society or their parent or their best friend agrees with. They are feeling inadequate because they perceive that others are judging them or disappointed by them.
When I think of the times that I use the word should, my experience mirrors what I have observed in conversations with my clients. The word should reflects an expectation, obligation or duty that I do not feel like I am meeting. I use should when I am being critical of myself, and not in a pick me up by my bootstraps motivational kind of way, but in a look at how inadequate I am kind of way.
It is a word that I catch myself and others saying all too frequently. We could all benefit from making a conscious effort to notice what those shoulds are doing, what effect should statements are having on our lives and what emotional baggage they are carrying.
The things that we attach a should to are often things that we aren’t internally motivated to achieve and as a result they are things that we don’t really put our hearts into. This means that the unaccomplished shoulds can really build up and that build up can have a very negative impact on our self-concept and confidence.
Let’s make an effort to eliminate the word should from our vocabulary. We can begin with ourselves. The next time that you catch yourself using the word should, check in to see if you could replace should with want or need. If you can’t, then take a moment to think about why this thing that you don’t want or need is something that you have declared that you should.
The lovely people at Elephant Journal have published an edited version of this post. You can find it here: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/03/dont-should-on-me-3-tips-to-get-the-shoulds-out-of-our-lives/