I should be a better parent, I should eat less and exercise more, I should stop drinking, I should write that book, start my own business, get a new job, mediate, practice yoga, be more grateful, stop procrastinating…
Sound familiar? It’s an ongoing monologue that many women, particularly at midlife when it’s easy to get stuck, have with themselves. Sure it seems harmless, but all that “shoulding” on yourself fuels your inner critic; blocks prosperity, success and abundance; and prevents you from shining your light. (For more on why we hide our brilliance click HERE.)
Here’s why. What you think you should do generally is what you feel guilty and bad about and tend to beat yourselves up over. When you focus on what you should do, you send a powerful negative message to your soul and the universe: I’m not good enough, I should be and do better.
Should = INERTIA. When you focus on what you should do you don’t connect with the power of possibility: What you want or could do. Your inner guidance, the Divine pilot light that steers you towards love, success and happiness, is obscured. Rather than being guided by the voice of your heart and soul, which knows your true longings and desires, you follow just your head. As a result you feel stuck, out-of-sorts, anxious, stressed and depressed and long for meaning, purpose and connection. Those negative feelings are your soul crying for help.
It’s not your fault. As a child you probably learned to should on yourself by internalizing the critical voice of your parents and caregivers… “You should clean your room, change your behavior, get better grades, take-out the garbage…” You mistakenly started to believe that you needed an inner critic to stay motivated and achieve your goals.
Perhaps you think that if I stop criticizing, judging and “shoulding” on myself I’ll never be good enough. Ironically, research shows that self-criticism actually hinders motivation because it undermines self-confidence and leads to fear of failure. In contrast, self-love and self-compassion boost motivation because they generate an emotionally supportive environment needed for change. (For more on ditching your inner critic click HERE.)
Here’s the good news. Starting today you can stop “shoulding” on your self here’s how:
Set an intention
Intentions are powerful tools and the starting point for manifesting what you want (not what you should do) in your life. As Deepak Chopra explains,
“Everything that happens in the universe begins with intention… a directed impulse of consciousness that contains the seed form of that which you want to create.”
So set an intention to swap “I should” for “I want” or “I could.”
Transformation, particularly inner change, starts with noticing your thoughts, beliefs and habits. This is one reason why meditation is so powerful. When you meditate you observe what’s going on in your head without judgment. You allow thoughts to come and go like clouds in the sky. Overtime this translates into being able to notice your thoughts throughout the day. You realize that thoughts are just things. You can choose to let the thoughts that aren’t serving you (all those shoulds) go and keep the thoughts that are fueling your passion and purpose. Once you make that inner shift your outer world will start to change.
Pause throughout the day and ask yourself: “Am I doing this because I should or because I want to?” If it’s because you should then ask yourself “Why should I? What might happen if I did’t do it?” This helps you recognize that you have a choice. Even if you still do the same thing changing “I should” to “I choose to” or “I want to” shifts your energy and makes the task more pleasant.
Do what you want
Set aside time (I recommend an hour per day or one day per week) to banish should from your vocabulary and do what you want. Consult your inner guidance and ask yourself, “What do I really want to do now or today?”
Notice how good it feels to do what you want rather than what you should. Observe what happens to your energy. For example, change “I should exercise.” to “I want to exercise” or “I should write in my journal” to “I want to write in my journal.”
- Write down ALL the things you’ve been telling yourself you should do.
- Ask yourself: Why should I? and Who says I should? For example, if I should lose weight is on your list do you feel you should lose weight because you want to be healthier, have more energy and feel more confident? Or is it because someone else told you should lose weight or you feel you should adhere to society’s thin beauty ideal? Notice what comes up, and write down where the origins of your shoulds are coming from.
- Substitute “I should” for each item on your list with “I want” or “I could” and see how your energy changes. Listen to your inner guidance. Which of the items do you really want for yourself? Which things are you doing because you or someone else thinks you should?
- Make a new list of all the things that you really want.
- Turn the items on your list into affirmations. For example, I should be a better parent becomes, I want to be a better parent and the affirmation: I am a better parent. I should lose weight, becomes I want to be at a healthy weight (lose is never a motivating word click HERE to read more https://drellenalbertson.com/lose-the-weight/) and finally I am at a healthy weight.
Let the “shoulding”, self-criticism, perfectionism and self-imposed rules go. Delete the harsh messages and listen to your heart. Ask yourself: What’s right for me. You’ll feel lighter, happier, accomplish more and be less anxious about getting things done.
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