A Case Of The "Shoulds"

I think that one of my worst habits is "should"-ing myself. I feel like I'm constantly living under the weight of that nasty word. Today I'm feeling it HARD. I spent most of yesterday on the couch surfing the internet rather than being productive. I know Sunday is the day of rest, but my brain doesn't seem to understand that, and instead I feel like a failure unless I've accomplished at least a few tasks each and every day.

But it's not just today that these "shoulds" drive me crazy. They're always present. I apply them to my appearance: I should be thinner, my arms should be more toned, my belly shouldn't protrude so much. As I mentioned before, I apply them to how I spend my time: I should write more blog posts in a week, I shouldn't spend so much time playing SIMS (don't judge me, it's the only way I'll ever own a house! ha), I should exercise more. And of course, I apply them to my past: I shouldn't have gone to university only to drop out, I shouldn't have been so irresponsible with money. The list never ends.

I've always been hard on myself. Horribly so. In my sessions with my counsellor this is a constant theme. Recently we were chatting about a way in which I was beating myself up, and then I paused and said, "ugh, maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself." She laughed - as I'm sure this wasn't the first time I'd made this statement - and replied, "ya think?" (Also, it didn't get past me that I used "I shouldn't . . ." in that conversation. Oh, the irony.)

The thing about "should" is that it's always attached to anxiety, or rather, is a result of it. For example, I'll think about my debt, get anxious, and then comes a "should" attack. I don't know if this is some twisted way of trying to cope with anxiety? Maybe I subconsciously think that if I know what the hypothetical solution is, then I can somehow fix the problem.

There comes the main issue, though. Behind every "should" and its attached anxiety is my desire to want to control outcomes. Maybe if I just monitor every bite I take and only eat "clean" food, I will be thin. Maybe if I keep a tidier house I'll be a happier person. The wise part of myself sees the foolishness behind this and knows that it's usually the people who are most controlling who have the least amount of joy and feel the most powerless. But the scared child in me thinks that if I had been able to control all the scary, unpredictable things that have happened in my life, maybe I'd be happier.

Who knows, maybe I would be. But that's neither here nor there. We've all experienced things in life that we couldn't control. It's in learning how to react that we begin to grow. And I won't discount how all of the hard things I've endured have made me into a stronger, more empathetic person.

From the amazing @lactationlink & @letterfolk

So how can I react? How can I combat this incessant list of expectations I have for myself and my life? Here are a few of my tactics:

  • I'm going to try to implement the phrases, "I would like to . . ." and "it may benefit me to . . ." rather than, "I should . . ." and I'm going to really try to accept myself as I am, and have my actions be based on love for myself. Rather than beating myself up about extra weight, I will remind myself regularly how I am being loving towards myself by enjoying exercises that I like (such as yoga and biking), and by eating healthy, whole, vegan foods. Rather than getting angry at myself because parts of the house are untidy, I will gently tell myself that I deserve to live in an uncluttered space and emphasize how relaxed I feel after I've cleaned.

  • I'm going to remind myself of all of the things I've done that were hard, that required work, and that were painful, that I was brave enough to take on to better myself. Maybe I'm not out there slaying metaphorical dragons everyday, but that's okay. I have a good track record of doing what needs to be done.

  • I'm going to surround myself with people, places, and things that make me feel good about myself. Whether it's looking at bad-ass plus-sized women on Instagram who strut through the world with confidence, or hanging out with friends who see the best in me and push me forward, these steps help to cultivate a healthy mindspace for myself.
My best-friend/sister from another mister Armig always lifts me up when I need it

Being hard on myself is one of my oldest and worst habits, and the one that I have found hardest to break. I have made some progress over the years, but oftentimes it's one step forward, two steps back. However, I am hoping that by showing myself some love and compassion I can continue to move forward. Rather than using harshness as a means to better myself, I want to use kindness, treating myself the way I would treat a loved one.

Do you struggle with a case of the nasty "shoulds"? How do you combat this?


  1. It is like you a speaking directly to me, I wrestle with "the should" all the time. Great advice I will try to be easier on myself in the future, but we are always our own worst critics. I have implemented surrounding myself with good people and place that make me happy, and I agree this method helps combat a lot of the feelings.

    1. It really is tough, eh? I hope in the future we can both be more loving towards ourselves, because we deserve it <3

  2. So true the should is attached to negative emotions. I love that you have tactics to use to get past the should.

    1. Thank you! I hope that some of these tactics can help others :)


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