The words we say undeniably leave a large impact, especially if they are directed to ourselves. Many of us set our own standards of “shoulds” in our minds. It’s always “I should start exercising more,” or “I should be making more progress right now.” We tend to base the entirety of our lives and our decisions on these standards because we believe it’ll lead us down the path to self-growth. But is this really a sustainable mindset?
Shoulding may seem like an effective method of motivating yourself in the beginning. After all, it gives you a clear idea of what you need to do in order to achieve your goals. However, the main problem doesn’t lie in the word itself. Rather, it comes from the intentions attached to the statement. “Shoulding” all over yourself can do more harm than good in most situations. Many people begin to crumble under the pressure of meeting all the expectations of what they “should” be.
If you truly want to grow as a person, then you should stop “shoulding” all over yourself. Here are a few methods to help you break the habit.
The first step to stop “shoulding” yourself is to find out why you began doing it in the first place. Are you feeling pressured by other people? Is it because you are still being haunted by your past mistakes? Figuring out where everything started gives you an idea of what you are working with.
According to Terri Cole, many of these “shoulds” are a product of our upbringing. One of the first people to set expectations in our lives is our parents. Our childhood is where we learn the concept of right and wrong, what needs to be done, and what we need to avoid. Give yourself time to think about why these ideas were formed in the first place. In your current position, do you think they are truly necessary? From there, try to differentiate if you are doing something because you need to or because you were brought up to think that you had to.
It’s possible that you are “shoulding” yourself due to failures that have occurred in the past. Recovering from trauma or unpleasant situations is a long and difficult road. Although it’s a start, it is not something that you can overcome simply because you want to. Setting these shoulds is a product of us protecting ourselves from making the same mistake.
Try to forgive yourself. Your past doesn’t and should not define who you are today. Lingering on your mistakes will only hinder your growth. Do not live in fear of history repeating itself. Instead, take every day as an opportunity to make up for what you lacked in the past. Remind yourself that even if you do fail once again, there will always be another chance for you to redeem yourself and continue. Never forget that mistakes and failure are normal parts of our lives. In fact, they are a vital part of our growth.
Although most people do not post things on social media with the intention of harming you, it can leave a negative effect on your self-esteem. Remind yourself that the things we see on social media just highlight reels; they’re a portion of a person’s life that they choose to share because it showcases their good side. Because of this, the line between social media and reality begins to blur, causing unrealistic expectations to form.
You need to filter the things you consume on social media. If you feel that certain content makes you feel shame instead of motivation, then it’s best to block it out. Sometimes it’s best to cleanse yourself from social media altogether. Put down your electronics and take a moment to think about your situation. Living your life based on the need to be like other people can be unhealthy in the long run.
Learn to separate admiration from envy and insecurity. Focus on the ways in which you can improve yourself in the way you want.
Take a Break From “Shoulding”
Breaking the habit takes time. One of the keys to stop “shoulding” yourself is to take it slow. Start by practicing healthy habits, such as giving yourself time to focus on what you want. Oftentimes, our lives revolve around what we should be doing and what we want to do. Are you pursuing something because you want to do it? Are you doing something out of interest or “necessity”?
Don’t forget to make time for yourself and focus on doing something you enjoy. Even if it’s just for a short amount of time, forget about all those standards and just relax. A couple of hours of prioritizing your wants won’t hurt you. In fact, it will actually help you transition into a healthier mindset and routine, wherein you allow yourself to go through genuine experiences and feel raw emotions without a cloud of expectations looming over your head.
You may even be “shoulding” yourself with standards that you apply to yourself and no one else. Ask yourself: “Would I expect the same thing from someone else? Would I be disappointed if they failed to do it?”
We tend to be the harshest in dealing with ourselves. There are times when you won’t be satisfied no matter how much progress you make because you always expect yourself to do more. Always remember to be kind to yourself. Instead of shaming yourself for failing to do something, acknowledge your effort in trying anyway.
Practice telling yourself kind phrases. If you have to, you can look in a mirror and begin saying words of affirmation. Tell yourself every day that you did a good job. Remind yourself that we’re all human and that it’s normal to make mistakes. After all, recovering from a toxic mindset starts with learning to accept that you can overcome it.
Stop “shoulding” all over yourself and think about your priorities. There will inevitably be times when your “shoulds” collide. For example, you’re trying to stay loyal to your workout routine but your schedule is jam-packed because of your academic responsibilities. Would you skip your workout routine to study? Would you put off studying for a big exam to go to the gym instead?
You need to figure out what you need the most at that very moment. Stop making yourself feel bad for the things that you fail to do. After all, there are only 24 hours in a day, and there is only so much that your body can withstand. Some things are more urgent or important than other responsibilities, depending on the situation. Focus on what you need most before anything else.
No matter what angle you look at it, Shoulding is not a healthy habit to maintain in the long run. It’s completely fine to focus on what you want and need. Don’t let anyone police you for prioritizing your own interests, even if you are going against yourself. Practice these steps and stop “shoulding” yourself. The path to your growth will become a lot smoother once you learn how to strive for success in healthy ways.