Beware the Land of Self-Shoulding

You know those moments when “I should” or “I shouldn’t” floats around in your head or comes out of your mouth?

You’re shoulding on yourself.

Yes, that sounds horrible.  And it’s something we all do.

I call it Visiting the Land of Self-Shoulding: a place filled with many variations of should and shouldn’t, all focused on:

  • What you do, think, or want
  • How you act
  • Who you’re supposed to be
  • Rules you impose upon yourself
  • What you strive for and the goals you set

A few weeks ago, I popped in to the Land of Self-Shoulding for a visit.

It was freezing cold and windy here in Raleigh. It was also my scheduled day to run, and my only opportunity to run that week. But you can’t take the Southern California weather wimp out of a Southern California girl, and in my world ZERO degrees with the wind chill factor is not fit for humans!

So I had no intention of running.

Yet a should loop kept running in my head.

I really should just bundle up and go. It’s not like I don’t have the right gear, I have plenty of cold-weather running clothes. If I don’t go today I won’t have a chance to run for a week. I really don’t want run in this cold, but I should just go anyway.

I finally turned the tape off by declaring (out loud), “I’m not running today because I choose not to.” Phew.  That released the should and freed me from the Land of Self-Shoulding!

That hour of shoulding on myself wasn’t the highest and greatest use of my energy, mind-space, or time. But it was just an hour, and I’m not perfect.

While it might be nice to never should on yourself again, that’s not likely to happen. Some variant of should will occasionally work its way into your psyche (mine too). We’re human.

The goal is to make your visits to the Land of Self-Shoulding brief and infrequent.

The time you spend in the Land of Self-Shoulding creates stress, drains energy, saps your creativity, wears you out, wastes time, uselessly occupies mind-space, negatively affects self-esteem, and generally makes you feel yucky.

I’m 99.99% sure that’s not what you’re trying to create in your life.

One of the many good things about being human is that free will thing :-). You can choose to leave the Land of Self-Shoulding.

There are two steps to skedaddling out of Self-Shoulding:

  1. Decide if you’re going to act on your should or shouldn’t.
    If you’re not going to act on it, give yourself permission to let it go. You’re in charge of you, so you have the power to grant permission!

    Say it out loud. “I’m giving myself permission to do (or not do) X. And that’s what I’m choosing.”  (Sometimes it feels good to throw in a “So there!”)

    The power of permission combined with the power of speaking words out loud is … powerful!

    On the other hand, if you are going to act on your should

  2. Make peace with your choice.
    Acting on should and feeling irritated, miserable, frustrated, angry, etc., is just another way of staying stuck in Self-Shoulding.

    Either find a way to be okay with your choice to act or reconsider letting your should go.

    It might be as simple as changing your language from should to want.  Instead of “I should do x,” try “I want to do x.”

    If that doesn’t work, write down all the reasons behind your sense of should and see if there’s one item on your list that helps shift should to something that feels better.

    Is taking action in alignment with your values? Does it involve a trade-off that feels right for you? Is there a mindset shift that helps you feel more at choice?

    If you still feel cranky, grumbly, or annoyed, ask yourself, “What permission am I withholding from myself?”  And then get still and listen to the answer.

    Choice is the antidote to should. Give yourself full permission to choose to exit the Land of Self-Should!

“Most people are so busy knocking themselves out trying to do everything they think they should do, they never get around to what they want to do.” ~ Kathleen Winsor


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