How-to Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself. Are you shoulding all over yourself? Do you find yourself in the constant trap of shame and guilt because you feel like you should be doing better?
I should be more successful.
I should be skinnier.
I should be fitter.
I should go to the gym.
I should have more followers.
I should know better.
I should meditate more.
I should be happier.
I should be healthier.
I should make better choices.
I should appreciate what I have, more.
the list could go on and on and on….
We all do it.
Whatever the particular “shoulds” on your list are, they always add up to the very same “should” – You should be better!
As far as I am concerned word ‘should’ is just a nasty sneak who gently reminds us daily, that we AREN’T GOOD ENOUGH.
Constantly shoulding yourself is a dangerous trap that keeps you from distinguishing what you truly want for yourself and for your life.
Stop asking yourself what you SHOULD be doing, and instead ask yourself what makes you feel complete, happy and alive!
Below are My 5 Tips to Help You Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself:
1) Should vs Want. When particular and repetitive “should” feelings come up, stop and ask yourself “Am I doing this because I want to or because I feel that I should do it?” If it’s because you feel you “should,” then check in with “Why do I believe that I should?” “What do I fear will happen if I don’t do it?” Often the feeling of needing to do things comes from a fear of failure.
Notice if recognizing your choice as a “should” vs a “want” changes the choice itself, or the way it feels to carry out. An effective practice is to actually physically write down these things you perceive to be shoulds onto pieces of paper. Have two piles, the shoulds that really and truly are actual WANTS for yourself and then the shoulds that come from external pressures, other people, society, etc. That pile, the pressure from others pile, throw that out! Burn it. Destroy it. It’s not your journey.
It may take some time for the actions surrounding these choices to change, but simply slowing down and identifying them as such, is already such a meaningful and important practice that will help you to better understand your intentions and your motivations. Allowing you to better get in touch with yourself and your goals, finding sustainable, positive and realistic paths to actually get you there.
2) Create Action Statements: I want. I will. I am.
Ask yourself: what exactly do I want, and how will I know when or if I’ve succeeded? Then determine what the next action step required would be to get closer to your desired effect, and use that to replace your should statements. Look at the pile of wants that you created. Find a way to shift the perspective on these into powerful action statements.
Rather than ‘I should drink more water’ shift to “I will drink more water. If I drink more water, I will feel better and have less headaches”.
Instead of ‘I should really get to the gym’, try “I want to go to the gym, because I know I will be proud of myself if I go and I know I will feel happier and have more energy.”
Shift ‘I should be thinner’ to “I want to feel comfortable in my body and from a place of love and acceptance I will make choices for myself that make me happy and healthy”
This practice is a huge one for me, personally. Just in the acknowledgment of when these can easily be swapped and when I am just not feeling it, that means the should gets tossed into that trash pile, even if just temporarily. Most days I WANT to workout and I genuinely enjoy it and look forward to it. Every so often I find myself getting ready to head to the gym and saying “I should really go to the gym today, but I don’t want to”, in that moment I try to shift my perspective to WANT and if it’s not an effortless swap, I let it go. I give myself the grace, the space and I skip it. Because almost always the next day, I do WANT to go.
Same for my approach to nutrition and my health, most days the choices that I have discovered are best for me, my health and my long term wellness goals, they are quite easy for me to uphold and are most definitely a want. I know I want to feel my best, so making the right choices for me is effortless, and rarely ever feels like a should. It becomes less about willpower and more about a shifted perspective toward caring enough about myself and wanting to feel my best to easily make those choices. That said, sometimes if I am traveling, at a particular restaurant or experiencing a special occasion, if the feeling of want shifts to a should, if I feel trapped or forced into something, I know that pushing myself to do something I don’t want to, never ends well. I feel stuck, alone, left out and out of control. So I check in and ask myself “what do you want right NOW?” and I do my best to honor that, when it makes sense to.
This has been a HUGE practice for me. With my workouts. My eating. It truly helps it all stay sustainable, approachable and possible, as a lifestyle.
3) Set Time Each Day or Each Week as a “Should-Less” Zone – This will be a time where you strictly focus your energy and your efforts on WANTS. Let go of any “shoulds” that arise, deal with them later, or don’t. If you have no wants come up at the designated time, just be, maybe your want it to just do nothing at all, and that’s OK, too. With practice and space, more wants will surface and you’ll have more clarity in your
4) STOP In the Moment of Shoulding and Redirect your Focus and Your Efforts to Something Positive. A want, a desire, a dream or something you already have worked really hard for. I talk at length about this practice in this post about the Healing Practice of Pratipaksha Bhavanam. I share the importance of recognizing unhealthy, unproductive and unsustainable practices, habits and patterns, and learning to redirect your awareness in the moment to choose an alternative path. By pausing, seeing the damage it can cause or simply just acknowledging that these unhealthy patterns are there and discovering what they can teach us, we can eventually learn to choose the opposite or at the very least, something more productive, sustainable and positive. Find something to be grateful for. Find something in your life that you once wanted and later achieved, celebrate that instead of dwelling on the should. But, most important is to be aware of this negative loop and the shame that comes from SHOULD – stop and choose an alternative path. Like most things in this life, it isn’t a simple shift you can immediately implement, it takes practice.
5) Forgive Yourself for Failing. Failure in this life is inevitable, failure is often part of how we learn what we want and what we need. To me failure is another word for education, because in these moments of struggle, this is when we learn the most about ourselves.
I honestly think it is better to be a failure at something you love than to be a success at something you hate.
– George Burns
If you find yourself dwelling on the failure or the inability to meet the “SHOULDS”, remember to always show yourself the exact same compassion you would show to others whom you love. Cut yourself some slack, give yourself some grace and know that in the failures we find teachings.