Even if you don’t go through your days sounding like a sailor at sea you probably say this dirty word a lot, to yourself and to others. And, you know what? This word that’s cleverly disguised as helpful has a much bigger and longer lasting impact than any swear word you hear on the street.
Wanna take a guess? It begins with an S. Not that 4 letter S word, but one with much more heft, and impact. One that shames and judges when it wallops you.
One medium sized word, one nuclear sized impact.
Consider how should feels when it smacks you.
- ‘You should really wear a belt with that.’
- ‘What I want is some banana bread, but I should eat a salad instead.’
- ‘It’s not enough to be a stay at home mom, I should be contributing to the family.’
- ‘I should be able to fit into those old jeans.’
- ‘You’re such a good organizer. You should head up the school fundraiser.’
Should implies that you are not good enough in this moment, which frankly is bullpoopy. Should is judgmental and shaming and says that in order for you to be OK, you need to wear a belt, eat salad, get a job, lose 10 pounds, and make the school lots of money, even if you don’t want to do any of those things.
I spent many years shoulding myself to death and I find that most of my clients struggle constantly with the heavy handed judgment of should.
Should feels like a pokey stick in the back that is pushing you forward. ‘I should do laundry today.’ Feel what that’s like? Get what I mean? There’s a judgment about getting the laundry done. If I don’t do the laundry today, then the result is going to be that I feel bad and guilty since some invisible source is telling me I’m a terrible, lazy, unproductive, (insert your favorite shaming word here) person for not following through.
When in the grips of should there are two questions that help turn that sharp stick in the back, to an inviting pull forward. It’s much easier to be pulled forward than to be prodded like a cow, don’t you think?
What do I need?
What do I want?
Let’s go back to the laundry and I’ll show you how this works.
You catch yourself saying, ‘I should do the laundry today’.
The first question to then ask is, ‘Do I need to do laundry today?’ If the answer is yes, because there’s no more clean panties in the house, then there’s no judgment, you simply need clean panties. Of course you could choose to put off laundry one more day and go commando, up to you. Either way it is your choice how you deal with this need. But now you’re clear; it’s a need and not a shaming judgment about how you do laundry.
If the answer is no, laundry is not necessary today, then go to the next question.
‘Do I want to do laundry today?’ Maybe you’re a super organized type who loves to do laundry, so the answer is yes. Then off you scamper to happily wash and fold. But, if the answer is no, you’ve already determined that you don’t need to do it, so let it go and move on to something else.
You can take the power out of the should with these two questions. Translate should into need and want and watch the power of should deflate like a popped balloon.
Try it out.
How does should show up in your life? Are you shoulding yourself? Are others shoulding you?