Why you should eliminate “should” from your vocabulary

Words carry energy. The way you talk to yourself is powerful. Language is a tricky thing. Because we all have varying interpretations and associations with words, there are not necessarily any “good” or “bad” words. Except for words like should. No good comes from should. Choice. One reason should needs to go is that it takes away your sense of choice. When you feel obligated, resistance arises. Check this out for yourself. Think of some things that you “should” yourself with. Examples:
  • I should eat better.
  • I should get up an hour earlier every day to make time for exercise.
  • I should be more patient with my spouse.
What are some of your “shoulds?"  Maybe even write a couple of them down. As you read them or say them out loud or to yourself, how does it feel in your body? What sensations do you notice in your throat, stomach, chest, neck, and shoulders? How’s your breath? Do you feel open, energized, motivated, positive? Now see what happens when you get rid of the “shoulds.” From the previous examples:
  • I would like to eat better.
  • I can choose to get up an hour earlier every day to make time for exercise.
  • I strive to be more patient with my spouse.
Rewrite your “should” statements to bring in an element of choice. As you read or say your choice statements, what are the sensations in your body? Do you have more space, less space, or no difference? It is sometimes difficult to notice the experience in your body. That is totally normal; just get curious about your sensations. Shame. Should can also be a tool for shaming yourself. You probably already know that when shame takes over, it has a paralyzing effect. Examples:
  • I shouldn’t be feeling fear/sadness/anger/anxiety.
  • I should be a better partner/parent/employer/employee.
  • I should be further along in my career/personal growth/healing/life by now.
Can you come up with any ways that you have used should to shame yourself?  Again, write down a couple of your shaming “shoulds.” Notice how these statements feel in your body. Though getting rid of the shaming “’shoulds” takes a bit more work on the front end than a simple rewrite, the payoff in the long run can be hugely liberating. These “shoulds” become a powerful opportunity to practice acceptance and self-compassion.
  • I am feeling fear/sadness/anger/anxiety. These feelings are difficult, and they are part of being human. Feelings are just energy and information.
  • I am a good enough partner/parent/employer/employee, and I can strive to be better. Who I am is separate from what I do.
  • I am exactly where I am supposed to be in my career/personal growth/healing/life. It is OK to be in process.
Can you rework your shaming should statements to bring acceptance and self-compassion to your experience? Kristin Neff has defined self-compassion as having three elements: mindfulness of suffering, common humanity (suffering is part of being human), and kindness towards the suffering. See if you can bring these elements in to replace the “shoulding.” Notice if this approach feels different in your body. The “shoulds” we have been talking about here are directed at the self. In a future post, we will look at how “shoulds” directed at others and the world are just as limiting.