Don’t should yourself.

Alright guys, let’s get really honest here.

So I started going to therapy soon after graduating college. Simply because I didn’t know how to deal with my own feelings and thoughts. It took me a bit to figure out that there’s no shame in that. I was upset all the time; I constantly felt out of control of both my present and my future and I wasn’t quite sure why. I’ve talked about this on the blog in the past. But I’ll never forget that first day almost two years ago.

On my first day, I received a diagnosis that I’ve also talked about before: anxiety and depression. Together, a blessing and a curse. A sense of relief, but also kind of weird and scary. As I was preparing to leave my new confidant’s office, a little shaken up after receiving not one but two unexpected diagnoses, my amazing therapist wrote on the card for my next appointment the word “shoulds” and assigned me some homework for next time.

One of the major obstacles I faced were feelings of guilt. I would feel guilty about things that had to do with others. I would feel guilty about things that didn’t even make sense. If my mom asked me if I wanted go to to Kohl’s with her and I didn’t feel like it and said no, I’d feel guilty about it for like two days. No exaggeration. I felt pangs in my chest because I just felt bad.

Most of the time, I felt guilty when I didn’t follow through with things I thought I should do.

My therapist told me that the majority of the time I was sitting in the chair in her office during our initial hour-long session, I was talking about all of the things I should be doing. I should go to the gym, I should probably eat better, I should probably move out of my parents house, I should look for different job opportunities, I should try to be happier at work, I should push myself to go out more, I should take better care of myself. Many of these things actually sound like good ideas—and sounded like good ideas to me at the time, too. The problem here is that a lot of the things I was doing (or planning on doing) at the time were based entirely on the fact that I thought that I should do them, not from somewhere that’s true for me.

I never really even realized that the world “should” could be negative. It comes from a good place—often times it’s about motivating yourself to do something. But in reality, the word is constant and nagging. It’s about what we expect from ourselves. The problem: many of us expect TOO MUCH from ourselves, which is when we’ll fall short (naturally, as humans). Then, come the feelings of guilt and disappointment. It’s a nasty cycle that we all get wrapped up in.

I was told to write a list of the things that make me feel bad that I keep telling myself I should do. And then eliminate that word from my vocabulary entirely and replace it with something else. Find out the things I want to do and then do them. And stop feeling sorry about not doing the things that I (or anyone else for that matter) think I should do.

I found this article  in the Huffington Post by contributor Mike Robbins about why we should stop ‘shoulding’ on ourselves and it hit the nail on the head. He explained that this idea stems from a lack of self-trust.

What if instead of asking ourselves, “What should I do?” we asked ourselves different, more empowering questions like, “What’s true for me?” or “What am I committed to?” or “What do I truly want?” These questions, and others like them, come from a much deeper place of authenticity and truth. – Mike Robbins

Again, and Robbins reiterates this as well, this is not to say that everything we think we should do is bad at the core. On the contrary. It’s about our motivation and intention for what we’re doing. Choose to be less motivated by guilt and fear and instead be motivated by wants and passions.

Gabby Bernstein, an amazing author and “spirit junkie” as she affectionately calls herself, explains that the “should mentality” gets us hung up on the way things “should” turn out.

This is when we get disconnected from the flow of the Universe. This, at its core, is precisely my problem.

I get all sorts of bent out of shape when things don’t go the way I think they should. More specifically, I lose my sh*t when things don’t go as I planned for them to. Instead of being so focused on this “should mentality,” I’ve learned that it’s just easier to do what you want, follow your gut, trust that you’ll end up where you need to and take the pressure off both internally and externally. Gabby says that the energy behind this mentality is controlling and manipulating. Instead, be receptive. Let go of the outcome. Allow yourself to be led. And let go of the “victim mentality” while you’re at it. Don’t feel sorry for yourself when something doesn’t go as it “should” have. The Universe has your back.

It’s important to stay clear and focused on what you truly want rather than what you think you should want. Ask yourself if you really want something. If you do, ask yourself why. You’ll know what you want to make a priority just based on stepping out of the shoulds and seeing how you really feel, without the obligation weighing on you.

What do you tell yourself you SHOULD be doing? And how can you let go of that?


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