30 May 2011

Don't "Should" On Yourself

I would like to set a new goal for you: Make the word "should" a curse word in your house. Here's why:

Merriam-Webster defines "should" in the following ways (emphasis added):

1 - used in auxiliary function to express condition
2 - used in auxiliary function to express obligation, propriety, or expediency
3 - used in auxiliary function to express futurity from a point of view in the past
4 - used in auxiliary function to express what is probable or expected
5 - used in auxiliary function to express a request in a polite manner or to soften direct statement

Let's think about this for a moment. How many times a day do you use the word, "should" in reference to yourself? How many times do you use it for others? Now, how often do you put "should" and "have" together? That, my friends, is a one-way ticket on the guilt train and it needs to stop.

"I should have baked chocolate cake instead of vanilla."
Well, why didn't you? Is it because you're a slacker? Is it because you don't care? Is it because you're in favor of vanilla over chocolate? Do any of these questions even matter?

NO. When you set yourself up with a "should have" statement, you ignite an almost never-ending self-beratement (<-- it's a word now!) in your mind. How long does it take for you to go from "should have" to "I'm a horrible person?" When something is probable or expected and you do not fulfill those obligations, you spiral into a "should have, could have, would have" cycle that ends in pain, depression and guilt.

Enough already. Get the word "should" out of your vocabulary just like you would any other curse word. Instead of "I should go to work today" say "I'm going to work so that I can provide for my family."
Instead of "I should have said something to her" say "Even though I didn't get the words out this time, next time I will be more relaxed and more prepared."
Instead of "I should try to be a better parent." say "Every day I am the best parent I can be as I continue to grow with my children."

To get rid of the "should have's," you must forgive yourself. Forgive every "missed opportunity," every "failed obligation," every "unfulfilled expectation." There is no place for "should have" in your life. You don't need self-projected guilt in your life. Forgive and move on.

I implore you to try this for one week and see if you notice a difference in your own thoughts and behaviors. After that week, come back and tell me how you feel. Look for tomorrow's post to help you even more.


  1. It's funny the things we don't think about that are so true.

    I know one thing I've tried to nip in the bud is thinking: 'With my luck (fill in something bad)..." It's such a defeatist attitude! (Also, not true - my luck is really not that bad).

    I'll be thinking about this one from now on, as well. Thank you Amanda. :)

  2. Yes I'm very glad I now have forced you to think even more than you already did :)

  3. This is such a great post! Whenever I tell my husband that he SHOULD have done something he replies with "Well, I didn't" and you can figure out how that sits with me! ;) We should get away from using should. Really good reminder! Thanks!

  4. Teehee :) Also, you must know that since writing this I have caught myself numerous times "shoulding" on my own self :)

  5. I have been removing the words should and "have to" from my vocabulary for years, especially to my kids. Instead of "You have to get dressed so we can..." It's "I'd like you to get dressed because we're going to the doctor..." etc. If getting dressed is something I prefer rather than some sort of global rule, there is space to talk about what my child might want or other solutions that might work, etc.

    I use "could" instead of should... feels much lighter and full of possibility. "I could have baked a chocolate cake. But I didn't." :)

    Even the Dr. Seuss books -- If you don't have a Zans, you should! I read it to say "could" :)

  6. Awesome perspective! No more "should" for me!

  7. Love it Stacy! Good to know Charise :)

  8. This is really great that you are posting this! As a counsellor I took a WHOLE class on this. Its important the world knows about this! Our words are very powerful and when we say this to ourselves we are devaluing ourselves! Thank you for this!

  9. Thank you Amy! I actually never took any classes about this...which certainly begs the question as to why it isn't taught more.