Do you find that you should on yourself often? That’s right—read it again. Albert Ellis, Ph.D. coined the term “should-ing all over yourself” which references our tendency to overwhelm ourselves with should statements or things we think we ought to do. Do you find you should on yourself?
Do you say things like…
You should be happy
You should have chosen a different path
You should have raised your kids differently
You should be more productive
You should appreciate what you have
You should spend less time on screens
You should spend more time with your kids
You should lose weight, exercise more, eat less, etc.
How often do you use the word should in self-talk and dialogue with others in reference to them and yourself?
Should statements send a message that whatever we did or are doing is not enough—that we are not enough. They are not productive in facilitating change or values-driven behavior.
How much of your behavior is driven by should statements? Are you losing your ability to focus on what you want and desire and, instead, forcing yourself to focus on what you are not?
When we do things because we think we should or ought to, we lose connection with our authentic selves. We are responding to an expectation that is not based on interest, desire, or values. Oftentimes, these expectations are internalized and self-inflicted as a result of societal norms and idealizations, rather than personal aspirations, goals, and values.
We have been so accustomed to shoulding on ourselves. Therefore, it takes actively and intentionally becoming aware of when we are shoulding on ourselves. Notice when you should on yourself. Then, ask yourself, “am I doing this because I want to or because I feel like I should as a result of some outside pressure that does not align with my goals or values?” When we begin to actively question or dispute our shoulds, we begin to focus, act, and talk to ourselves in a way that is in greater alignment with our inner being. While changing your should statements may seem small, it has the potential to reframe things that are important to you. For example, the statement that “I should exercise,” can be changed to reflect an individual’s desire for movement to “I get to move my body.” This change is twofold: (1) it emphasizes the action being internally motivated rather than externally motivated and (2) it shifts the perspective from guilt if you don’t do this action to gratitude if you do.