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Liberate Yourself from the Weight of 'Shoulds'



"Shoulds" are the worst. Do you find yourself "shoulding" yourself? I do. It's something I've been working on for years.


The term 'should' carries such weight, often laden with expectations and accompanied by self-criticism. It implies a sense of obligation, creating a burden of pressure to meet idealised versions of ourselves. This constant striving can lead to disappointment and self-blame. It's time to let go of the 'shoulds' and embrace self-acceptance, free from the weight of unrealistic expectations.


Recognising 'should' expectations


The 'shoulds' we place upon ourselves can manifest in various ways, from personal goals to parenting responsibilities. Some examples include:


1. "I should lose some weight."

2. "I should limit the amount of screen time my son has."


These self-imposed 'shoulds' can become heavy, weighing us down with unattainable standards.


'Shoulds' directed towards others


When we impose 'shoulds' on others, we unintentionally tell ourselves that they're falling short of reasonable expectations. This can lead to feelings of anger or resentment. Examples may include:


1. "People should be more considerate of my time."

2. "My child should help me fold the laundry."


These expectations, when unmet, can breed frustration and strain relationships.


Struggling against circumstances


Sometimes, we apply 'shoulds' to our circumstances, leading to feelings of frustration and a sense of unfairness. Examples include:


1. "I should be living in a better neighbourhood by now."

2. "I should be feeling better after catching a cold."


These expectations can create discontent and hinder our ability to appreciate the present moment.


Breaking free from 'shoulds'


Having personally grappled with 'shoulds', especially in the realm of parenting, I understand the toll they can take on one's well-being. Becoming a mother was a transformative experience, filled with a flood of expectations. However, when reality clashed with those ideals, I felt like such a failure.


Over time, I learned to filter out unsolicited advice and trust my instincts. Here's my advice to new parents: sleep when the baby sleeps, let go of housework, seek help, and ignore the endless stream of advice!


Embracing change - how to address 'shoulds'


To liberate yourself from the shackles of 'shoulds', consider these steps:


  1. Declare your intention - make a conscious effort to reduce 'shoulds'. Use post-it notes with affirmations like "No more shoulds" as daily reminders.

  2. Recruit a 'should buddy' - enlist someone who enjoys playfully pointing out when you use the word. Their perspective can be enlightening.

  3. Question your 'should' list - scrutinise the origin of each 'should'. Discard those that don't align with your true desires and values.

  4. Reframe your thoughts - catch yourself when 'should' emerges and rephrase your thoughts in a more empowering and self-compassionate manner.

  5. Practice self-compassion - be kind to yourself and forgive any 'should' slip-ups. Remember, self-compassion is key in this journey.


Freeing yourself from the weight of 'shoulds' is a powerful act of self-love and acceptance. By recognising and challenging these expectations, you pave the way for a more authentic and fulfilling life. Remember, this isn't about telling you what you should do (wink), but rather, it's an exploration of ways to unburden yourself from unnecessary constraints.


Embrace this journey of self-discovery and let go of those 'shoulds' that no longer serve you.

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