How To Stop the “Shoulds”

[dc]O[/dc]ne morning last week, I was walking in a nearby park and took a picture to share with friends on Facebook. I “checked in” to the place I was, and posted the photo with the caption, “A morning walk in the woods to wake my body, mind, and soul.” As I was getting ready to hit “post,” I noticed it was 10:15 AM. My next thought? “Geez, I’m sure lots of my friends would hardly consider this time ‘morning’”. I momentarily feared being judged. (Yeah, I know – projection, with which I have a love/hate relationship, but that’s a whole other post).

I’m not a morning person. Never have been. Don’t know if I ever will be. On those rare occasions when I have to get up very early, I can appreciate the beauty and stillness of dawn. Sometimes I wish I was wired to wake at that time regularly, but the truth is, I’m just not. Not now anyway.

Friends love to tell me, when I mention getting out of bed at 9 or 10 AM, that they’ve been “up and at ’em for four hours already by then!” I’m not sure if they’re looking for a pat on the back or a “poor baby.” When these same folks are in bed at 8 or 9 PM, I’ve still got three or four hours left of my day, so doesn’t it all balance out?

say no to shouldNot according to the general consensus. “Society” (whoever that is) tells us we should wake early, be super productive, work hard, have deep, meaningful conversations with a tight-knit group of friends, deepen your familial ties, go to bed early, sleep soundly, and wake up refreshed to do it all over again.

Well, my friend, that’s a lot of “shoulds”. Throughout our lives, we’re trained and conditioned to feel compelled to fulfill others’ expectations. As a result, we often lose ourselves in the shuffle.

I hear this so often during my client calls. “I should get a ‘real’ job,” “I should visit my aunt,” “I should want to have sex as often as my spouse,” “I should be more social.” “I should go to the gym.” The list goes on and on. When we use the word “should,” we make ourselves wrong. We beat ourselves up for not being who we or someone else thinks we should be, and then we end up wasting a whole lot of precious time chasing our own tails.

When you find that you’re “should’n all over yourself,” try these tips:

  1. Throw down a list of all the shoulds floating around in your head. Capturing them immediately diminishes their power and gets you back in the driver’s seat.
  2. Take a look at a few of them, and reframe them as a question. For example, instead of “I should be more social,” ask yourself, “Do I long for more time with friends?” Doing this softens the statement and allows you better access to the truth.
  3. Now that you are more connected to your soul’s voice, invite it to speak freely. Take out your journal and prompt it with the questions you crafted above. A “should” tendency is often tied to old beliefs you hold, and by letting your inner little one be heard gives you the opportunity to love her where she’s at and to reassure and comfort her.
  4. Moving forward, practice replacing “should” with “could”. “I could go to the gym.” “I could be more social.” Can you feel how much more gentle that is? It puts you in an empowering position where you get to make a decision as to whether you want to do those things versus wronging yourself into believing you must.

Whether the shoulds are being put upon you by yourself or others, you’ll almost never find loving or healthy motivation coming from that place. Find a way that works for you to approach your goals from a place of love and you’re sure to make some moves.

Your turn! Where are you should’n all over yourself? Are you willing to give the above challenge a go in an effort to soften the demand and get to the truth? What has worked for you in the past? Please join the conversation in the comments below…

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6 replies
  1. Joy
    Joy says:

    If I find my mind thinking “should” that is usually a sign that my heart is not in it..and if my heart is not in it, whatever that ‘should’ is, is not in alignment in that moment. It’s my sign to re-evaluate that specific commitment to see if I can re-frame it or if it needs to be ‘released’ moving forward. And, usually for me, “should” is not my voice, it’s a residual from my past; such freedom in acknowledging that!

  2. Cyndy
    Cyndy says:

    And I repeat: YOU ARE FOLLOWING ME and YOU ARE PSYCHIC…g…. — from cross-country, somehow 24/7, seeing the themes and the struggles virtually hour by hour. Fighting ‘shoulds’ and the old values are among the main themes of my life right now, and this post hit it spot ON, Kerri. Thank you and THANK YOU.

  3. Lauren Dane Butler
    Lauren Dane Butler says:

    I could comment on this very supportive blog, I could save it and copy it to reference in the future. Should I, yes it has great advice and how tos and I hate (said with great emphasis) the shoulds. Thank you so much for this. it will be useful as I begin my day at 9:30 or 10am because that my friend is who I am and I will do what I can to rid myself of “shoulds”. especially the morning shoulds.


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