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How to Stop ‘Shoulding’ All Over Yourself

Should verb: used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions or what is probable. -Oxford Dictionary

I would like to counter that definition with this:

Should guilt trip: commonly used to motivate improved behavior, but usually results in guilt, judgment, negative self-talk, and a general feeling of never being enough.

Which definition do you resonate with the most? If you relate to the latter, then this post is for you.

If I had a nickel for every time I asked someone about a self-care task and they responded with not just a “no” but a “Well, no, but I know I should,” I would be a rich, rich woman.

For some reason, the word should has evolved from a suggested critique to a first-class ticket on the guilt trip train. It’s also become an excuse or a sort of dance around from doing the actual thing. It’s like if you state that you know you should, that somehow makes it OK that you haven’t been doing it.

The truth is, we all should up the place. We all have things we want to be doing that we aren’t. We all have room for healthier and wiser habits in our life. But the other truth is that trying to should our way into health and happiness just doesn’t work.

So what do to? What to do instead knowing you shouldn’t use the word should? My workaround is to use the word should to my benefit.

Lately, I’ve been transforming the phrase “I should…” into “Why should I?” And ya know, the results have been pretty powerful.

For example, walking my sweet pup Juniper during the Winter months. The thought process of “I know I should walk June” just wasn’t cutting it for me. It didn’t get me to actually do it, especially on really blustery days. It just made me feel like a horrible dog mom.

But when I answered the question “Why should I walk June today?” I came up with so many motivating answers. She needs exercise to be happy. I need exercise to be happy. It’s always good to connect with nature. Walking in the cold is invigorating. June will be better behaved later. We’ve both been cooped up lately. And the list goes on.

When I stop and actually recognize why I’m shoulding, the motivation and the energy shifts from guilt to empowerment.

Think about something you commonly should about. Is it exercising? Stretching after a workout? Eating well? Calling your Grandmother? Doing the laundry?

Choose one and meditate or journal about why you should do it. What will you get out of it? How will it improve your life? Whom else could it serve? How will this help you fulfill your goals?

And then notice how answering those questions change your relationship with the task at hand. Have you unlocked some hidden motivation? Or have you realized maybe it’s something you don’t need to actually be doing?

I wish you well on your guilt-free shoulding adventures and, as always, feel free to let me know how it’s going in the comments.


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