Updated: Sep 15, 2020
I know should is not four-letter word, but it may as well be. I often hear people say: “I should eat more vegetables.” “I should be exercising at least three times a week.” “I should’ve reacted better to (fill in the blank) situation.” “I should’ve responded differently to my spouse/child when I got angry with them last night.” “I shouldn’t have to live in anxiety. Why is THIS the life I was given?” We use the word “should” in conversation so frequently that we do not always realize we are saying it. But this seemingly innocent little word carries with it deeply rooted emotions. If we believe we “should” do something and yet we do not do it, we then feel guilty. Overtime, this guilt leads to shame. Let’s back up for a second and talk about the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is the belief that we have done something bad or wrong. Shame, however, is the belief that WE are bad or wrong. The planted seeds of shame then take root, growing deep into our identity and changing the way we view ourselves. So, when we innocently tell ourselves that we “should” do something, we are stirring up the waters for impending shame. I want to give you a challenge today. Every time you catch yourself using the word “should” I want you to reword that sentence and replace “should” with a value or action statement as this will provide opportunity and empower you with a choice. You see, by changing your language you are no longer a victim to your shame but at the helm of your life. If you allow it, value and action based statements cause you to take responsibility which keeps you accountable and true to your word – This is also a way for you to keep those in your lives that you like and love. So what would it look like to reword the sentences above? “I want to eat more vegetables, and I will start by eating this salad for lunch.” “I want to exercise at least three times a week, but that feels overwhelming to me right now. I will start by exercising every Wednesday since I have the opportunity to leave work early that day. Then I’ll work up to more days from there.” “I will react better to (fill in the blank) situation. I could dwell on what has already happened that I am not proud of, but instead I will choose to react differently when and if that situation happens again.” “I will responded differently to my spouse/child when I get angry. I will apologize for what I did, ask for forgiveness, and choose next time to give myself a timeout and allow myself to cool down from my anger before responding.” “I don't like to focus on all the negatives I experience, and despite my own tendencies I want to be grateful instead." You can choose today to stop shoulding all over yourself. Or you can continue living in the “should” cycle.
What choice will you make?