How to Stop Letting “Shoulds”

Control Your Life

How often do you use “shoulds”?

How often do you "should"?

I should eat healthy…

I should look younger…

I should lose weight…

You probably "should" all the time and don't realize it.

But do you know the moment you start your sentences with "should," you not only restrict yourself but you give them power to control you?

Using "should," automatically gets you into the mindset of doing what you think others expect you to do where doing the "right" thing becomes dependent on others' approval and acceptance.

It disconnects you from doing it for yourself.

When we're kids, our lives are pretty much laid out for us. We may have little freedom of choice, but for the most part, we do what we're told. There is nothing wrong with that. It teaches us what's ok and what's not. We learn to be accountable for our decisions and actions. Gradually, as we age, we start finding things that we value and what works for us. However, some people struggle with making this transition in carving out their own path in life. They get older without figuring out what they want in life and grow up at every fork, always choosing what they think they "should" and not what they "want."

If you grow up in an environment where your parents place too much control in your life instead of letting you explore and blossom, you find yourself busy with things you think you "should" do to please them. Or they don't pay much attention to you, so you try to do what you think you "should" do to get their attention. From early on, you get programmed to reach your goals by doing the "right" things to gain others' approval and acceptance. You feel guilty and blame yourself when things don't go as they "should."

What makes it more complicated is that this frame of mind becomes deeply embedded as a way of life. Some of us even find it secure and comforting.

When I first moved to the United States, I used to get anxious making decisions because I was so used to having my mom make them all for me up to that point. I was programmed from early on. All I had to do is to follow what she said. It was my secure zone.

After I turned 17, I started to hear my conscience telling me to find who I really was and what made my heart sing. It got louder and louder as time went by. I realized I had to do something, but I had given up so much power that I didn't even know where to start.

I had let "should" completely control my life.

Every time you think you "should," you give up a bit of your power and freedom. And if you keep it up, it leads to a feeling of resentment, anger, and depression.

Do you feel resentful when you don't receive what you expect, or get frustrated when you can't finish everything on the to-do list, or get depressed when things don't go as planned?

These are the signs of feeling disempowered and lack of freedom.

So what can we do to get out of this unhealthy cycle?

#1: Being mindful of your thoughts

There are certain things in life that you absolutely have to do, whether you want to or not. But be mindful and recognize the difference amongst them. Do you do it because you want to do it, or you think others expect you to do it or if it's the "right" thing to do?

You may find it difficult in the beginning but don't worry. What matters is first to be aware of them and identify them.

Once you get the hang of it, pick one, and instead of doing it how you think you "should" do it, do it how you "want."

It could be as simple as doing laundry at night instead of in a busy morning, or cleaning the house once a week instead of twice a week. Whatever you do, start with something easy and simple. Once you get used to this process, you can move on to something more serious and complicated.

#2: Allowing yourself to say no.

One thing that's hard for us to do as a woman is to say no. It's ingrained in our society that women should be likable and nice to everyone, so we tend to undertake anything that comes to our lives.

So start practicing saying no to things and people.

And keep in mind, you can do more if you say no. And it will be much more meaningful when you say yes because it's coming from a genuine place, not an obligation or guilt.

#3: Changing your mindset from "should" to "choose to."

I know you already heard me above but let's look at these examples below and read as something you intend to do:

I should lose weight.

I should eat healthy.

I should exercise.

Feeling a little restricted?

Now let's see you transformed:

I choose to lose weight.

I choose to eat healthy.

I choose to exercise.

Empowering, aren't they?

You have freedom of choice.

You have control of your life and what you do.

You will feel it when you start choosing so.

Remember, this is the exercise to help you get out of the unhealthy cycle that you have been in for a long time, so be patient and kind to yourself.

It will get easier as you become mindful of your thoughts. Once you learn and get used to doing this, you will become more aligned with your conscience and be able to find what you want and really love to do.