Shoulding all over yourself


I’m back! After a month’s hiatus, I decided I should attempt posting again, it is should on selfoften inspiring for me whether anyone else reads it or not. This morning I was feeling more than a little overwhelmed by all the things I think I “SHOULD” be doing because I am not working. However, I have heard that we can “should” ourselves right into depression, and I certainly do NOT need that. (Italics throughout post are my comments.)

Michael Schreiner, in the article entitled “Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself”  asserts that “There are few words more toxic for a person’s happiness, sense of efficacy, and overall mental health than ‘should’.  ‘Should values’ says Schreiner, “leave you ‘compulsively driven to perform behaviors instead of… making authentic decisions based on what you really want.’ If you make a list of all the shoulds that infect your life, you will probably discover that most of them are based on unspoken cultural assumptions or implied family values.” For example, where is it written that you have to be the best housekeeper or cook? Or the hardest worker? Do I need to be June Cleaver now that I am not working?

Similarly, Mike Robbins writes: “What if instead of asking ‘What should I do?’ we asked empowering questions like ‘What do I truly want? What am I committed to?’ These questions states Robbins “come from a much deeper place of authenticity.”

Andrea Wachter wrote a similar piece  Some key points:

  • “When someone lives with ‘shoulding’ or self-criticism and perfectionism, what usually ends up happening is that they are either very anxious about getting things done and getting them done perfectly (a thankless, never-ending job since none of us is perfect!)or they end up burning out or rebelling and are unable to get things done at all. This often leads to feeling depressed because they can’t keep up with their self-imposed rules, regulations and expectations. “Shoulders” are often “very driven, perfectionistic, achievement-oriented and outer goal-focused. (Emphasis mine, this is me in a nutshell!!) Wachter calls this being a human DOing rather than a human BEing” (Emphasis mine, this is a huge challenge for me!!!)
  • Robbins asserts much the same: “I realize that my obsession with doing, saying, or feeling the way I think I should is less about the desire to do the right thing, and more about fear, shame and lacking self-trust. This insecurity leads me to look outside of myself for guidance, validation, and the insatiable ‘right” way something ‘should’ be done. This is often stressful, anxiety inducing, and damaging. When we are ‘should’ motivated, the underlying intention for what we are doing is compromised – even when it is something positive we are doing. When motivated by ‘should’ we may feel stressed, bitter, resentful, worried or annoyed. The ‘should mentality’ is based on the erroneous notion that there is some big book of rules we must follow to be happy and successful.”
  • But there is a 3rd option, Wachter asserts; this is following your heart. This means making your choices out of love and kindness and what feels the most right to you, rather than making your choices because of a self-imposed perfectionism
  • Wachter suggests that we can “learn to delete the harsh messages in our mind in the same way we can delete a virus from our computer. And we can upload new, kinder messages. We can get things done from a place of moderation and sanity. We can rest in a place of peace, relaxation and self-worth”.

This is an important goal for me, and “serenity” is a core value.

Robbins also listed a few things to help stop ‘shoulding’:

  • Pay attention to how much “should” runs your life.  Determine how much of your motivation is based on “should.”  Notice how often the word itself comes out of your mouth in relation to your own actions and your thoughts or conversations about others.  The more you’re able to notice this, without judgment, the easier it will be to alter it.
  • Play around with different words, thoughts, and motivations other than “should”.If it’s not about what you (or others) “should” do, what are others words, thoughts, or motivations you could have?  How can you relate to the most important areas and people in your life differently?  Inquire into this and see what comes up.  It’s not simply about word choice (although words do have a great deal of power), it’s about altering where you’re coming from in a fundamental way.
  • Ask yourself empowering questions.As I mentioned above, instead of asking yourself the question “What should I do?” see if you can ask yourself more empowering questions – ones that lead you to an authentic and inspired place of motivation.  Here are some as examples, “How can this be fun?” or “What would inspire me?” or “What’s in alignment with my mission?” or “How can I serve?” or “What would make me feel good about myself?”  There are so many possibilities, once we let go of “should.”

Finally, Nancy Collier (c 2013) wrote an article entitledStop ‘Shoulding’ Yourself to Death! How to break free from the ‘should police’ and re-discover WANT!”   Michael Robbins wrote a similar article

Collier asserts that because so much of our behavior is driven by “should,” we are losing our ability to distinguish what we really “want.” She had a couple excellent suggestions.

  • Ask yourself throughout the day “Am I doing this because I want to or because I should?” If it’s because you “should,” then “Why do I believe I should?” “What do I fear will happen if I don’t do it?” Notice if recognizing your choice as a “should” changes the choice itself, or the way it feels to carry out. In the same vein, Mic
  • Even if your actions remain unchanged, simply identifying your choice as a “should” or “want” is meaningful, and will help you know your true motivations and intentions and thus — know yourself.
  • Set aside a period of time (at least an hour every day) as a “should-free” zone — a time when you only attend to that which you “want.” If anything shows up as a “should,” set it aside for later or let it go altogether. If no “want” shows up, that’s fine as it may take some time for a “want” to actually form inside you. Remember, “want” itself has become atrophied, like an under-used muscle. Sometimes the “want” is just to do nothing, so listen for that “want” as well.

Well, I guess I “should” just stop here for this post; Peace Out


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