Shedding the Shoulds and Shame

How many times a day do you use the word SHOULD?

I encourage you to pay attention to your “SHOULD-ing.” It is a word that can be very depleting and problematic. It can keep you from moving forward and getting things done.

Louise Hay (author of many New Thought self-help books, including You Can Heal Your Life) is the first person who helped me recognize how powerful and disempowering the word SHOULD is. When we use the word SHOULD, it feels like it is coming from someone outside of ourselves—a parent, a sibling, a boss, a partner, a friend. It sometimes feels like an external condemnation of our putting something off or not meeting someone else’s expectations. Yes, you may SHOULD on yourself, and you can choose to do so, but, think about it, how does it make you feel? Usually pretty rotten!

In fact, SHOULD-ing is often accompanied by SHAME, which makes it even worse, right? Feeling ashamed can create havoc with our sense of well-being—mind, body and spirit. How often did you hear as a child, “You should be ashamed of yourself,” or “Shame on you”? And how did that make you feel?

I’ve watched too many people suffer from being shamed (as did I), and early on, as a parent, I was determined not to do that to my two daughters. In fact, one of my favorite family mantras has been, “No judgment, no blame, no guilt, no shame!”

Change the word SHOULD to the word COULD!

The next time you use the word SHOULD, stop, pause, and then change that word to COULD. Play with this a bit to see what I’m talking about. First say, “I SHOULD get organized!” Then say, I COULD get organized!” Hmmm….try those two sentences again:

“I SHOULD get organized.” (Pause and feel your reaction.) vs.
“I COULD get organized.” (Pause and notice a different response.)

Can you feel the difference? When we use the word COULD instead of SHOULD, it feels more like it’s coming from within us, not from the outside. And your reaction might be, “Oh, I have a choice. I can decide whether to do something or not—someone else isn’t telling me what to do. Ahhhh…that feels better.” We are often more likely to do something if we feel like we have a choice, and the choice is ours to make, not someone else’s! This can be very freeing.

How do you spell SHOULDERS?

Many years ago, a bodyworker was working on my shoulders, which were very tight and tense, and he said to me, “How do you spell SHOULDERS?” I paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and realized his point: S-H-O-U-L-D-e-r-s.

I was carrying all of my SHOULDS in my SHOULDers! Wow! Even now, if I find myself SHOULD-ing on myself (less and less now; it takes practice!!), I’ll check my SHOULDers, raise them up tight, relax and let them go. And that often allows me to let go of those SHOULDS in an instant! Yes! Try it! The results can be pretty amazing!

Do your best to let go of as many SHOULDS as possible.

When you begin to let go of SHOULDS, I guarantee you will feel better about yourself and be more inspired to take care of some of the things you might have been putting off. And, while you are at it, pay attention to how often you tell someone else what they SHOULD be doing. How are you making them feel? It certainly isn’t a very healthy way to try to motivate someone. Let’s do our best not to SHOULD on ourselves or on anyone else. Think how much happier we can all be!

Here’s an affirmation from Louise Hay:

I remove the word ‘should’ from my vocabulary.
Every time I use that word I am making myself or someone else wrong.
I replace my ‘shoulds’ with ‘coulds.’
In this way, I know I have a choice, and choice is freedom.

Goodbye SHOULDS. Hello COULDS!

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