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Shoulding Yourself

Updated: Apr 30

I remember the first time someone suggested I stop using the word should. 


I also remember considering her suggestion, ignoring it and spending another 20 years using it on a regular basis.


When I looked up the definition of SHOULD, this popped up on my screen:

Should (verb):  “used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone's actions.


Yep, that’s exactly how I use SHOULD to evaluate myself, as if there is a right way or a wrong way to live life.  There are more meanings of should, of course, but this is the one that I’m referring to.


I should go workout.

I should be on time.

I should have figured my life out by now.

I should save for my retirement and kids college.

I should be more social.

I should want to volunteer at my kids’ school.

I should be nicer to my mom.

I should be able to keep my house clean.

I should know more than I do.


Do you have a list of shoulds?  In the coaching world, we call it “shoulding yourself”, which is basically shitting on yourself.  Nice visual right?


Too bad I didn’t take the advice I was given back then. 

But like a lot of things in my life, I needed to learn on my own that the word SHOULD does not produce positive results.


How do I know should this? 


When you first start doing “thought work”, you learn a tool called The Model.  It’s a framework used to look at your thoughts and what outcomes they produce.


Here’s what it looks like in action:


I have a conversation with my mom.  I get off of the phone and think, “I should have been nicer to her” and I immediately start feeling guilty and ashamed. 


When I feel that way, I replay the conversation in my head, and think about what a crappy daughter I am. Then I don’t call her for a while. 


What’s the outcome? I’m not nice to her because I withdraw AND I’m not nice to myself.


Ouch.


Here’s one that is a seemingly innocent use of SHOULD:


It’s a Thursday night and I look around at my kitchen.  There are dishes piled up and my husband who’s been out of town all week is due home anytime.  I think, “I should have everything cleaned by now and I don’t.”


I start feeling those same feelings of guilt and shame.  I don’t do the dishes and blame it on how busy I am AND I also think about how other people do it and compare myself to them. 


The outcome of shoulding myself about the dishes? Another opportunity to punch myself in the face AND I let my husband do the dishes (hello more guilt and shame!)


As I write this, I’m cringing.  Maybe I’m the only one that uses SHOULD and feels like crap?  Maybe not?


The real outcome of using SHOULD is the belief that there is a right and a wrong way to do everything in life.  It leaves you in one of two categories, right or wrong.


If I’m right, high fives all around!! If I’m not right, the logical conclusion is that I must be wrong.  No high fives for me.


If we opened up to the idea that life really isn’t black and white, maybe we would be kinder to ourselves and everyone around us?


The exception to that open mindedness is when you consider the word SHOULD.  Take my advice and let it go. No one needs to be shoulding themselves.


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