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Stop “Shoulding” Yourself

Stop “shoulding” yourself! It’s not helpful and it actually hinders your progress. When an unfavorable situation is noticed, people often jump straight to “I know I should” or “I know I shouldn’t do_____.”

The idea of  “shoulding” or shaming, is learned from an early age as a way to guilt ourselves into doing the perceived preferred behavior. If we took something that didn’t belong to us, our caregivers may have shamingly said, “you shouldn’t steal.” The idea was that we would understand that it was not a good thing to do and we wouldn’t do it again. This is a way of behavioral conditioning ; and although this guilt based method has been used for many years, it does not serve people well in emotional, spiritual, or cognitive development. Here are a few tips that I use to help my clients start to make the shift to more effective ways to grow (both personally and as parents):

  1. When the word should is going to pop out of your mouth, pause and ask yourself, “what would I say if I took the word ‘should’ out of that phrase”. Ex: “I should go to the gym” translates to “If I were to go to the gym, I would increase my energy and feel better in my body.” By taking the guilt out of phrase one, we actually become more effective in motivating ourselves or others to make the change
  2. When you are going to “should” someone else, try explaining it like the example above. Ex: “You should be more thoughtful.” To, “if you were more thoughtful, I would feel better taken care of and loved.”
  3. If you don’t have time to go through that process, another way of shifting from the guilting mentality, is simply to change “should” to “want” and see if it’s true or not. Ex: “I should meditate more often.” To “Do I want to meditate more”.

By removing the guilt, we are more clear about why we do or do not want to do something. We also become better teachers because we are helping our spouses, children, friends, and family see the meaning in their behaviors rather than doing it out of shame, fear or obligation. It takes some practice but before you know it you’ll feel more confident in your choices and feel less fear about doing the “right” or “wrong” thing and more freedom to make choices that FEEL GOOD to you.