Stop “Should’ing” On Yourself (And Others)!

This is a little piece of advice a dear friend gave me when I first started on my journey in recovery. She noticed that I would begin to “should” all over myself, “I should have a better job” “I should be living on my own” “I should know better” “ I should be making more money.” SHEESH! What a mess I just made!


Should means “ought to” or something that is expected. Should implies judgement. Y’all, we are all in the same race, but we have different starting points, different paths, different strengths, different abilities, and different obstacles and they come at different times. If you put a sprinter in a marathon race with mud and natural obstacles to climb over, chances are the sprinter won’t fair as well as the marathoner. However, if you put that same marathoner in a race with a sprinter, the sprinter is sure to whip past them! If someone is naturally inclined towards studying and school they will probably make decent grades. However, if you put that same person in a situation where they need to think on their feet and improvise, you might not get the same results. Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life thinking it is stupid. Albert Einstein

Now, if you’re anything like me, you might be saying “Yeah, yeah, but what about those people who just seem to be good at everything?” Surely you don’t know everything about their life and have no idea what struggles they may have already been through or are to come in their future. Everyone has a struggle. For some, it comes during childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, or for others middle age or later in life. If I am “should’ing” on myself because my obstacle came up quicker than your’s or perhaps I just can’t see your obstacle because you’re on a different path than me, then I am not honoring my own journey.


If you are “should’ing” on yourself, I wonder, what (and perhaps who) is behind those judgements? Where are they coming from? Are they coming from your family of origin? Your culture? The media? Yourself? Probably a mixture of all of those things.


I ask you to take a minute to locate where those “shoulds” are coming from and what do they say exactly? Then ask yourself, do those really apply to you? Do they apply to you right now? Would it be rational (not to mention fair) to apply them to you right now? Do you even agree with them? The tendency that happens when one wallows in “should” is that they get stuck in this negative pattern and have a harder time seeing their way out.


Enter, positive and creative solutions along with some compassion for yourself (and others)!


Have you considered the thought that maybe you’re not doing (fill in the blank) because it’s just not right for you? Have you thought about perhaps the reason (fill in the blank) isn’t working out is because it’s not supposed to? Is there another option you’re having trouble seeing? The door shut…now where’s that open window!?


We fall back on “should’s” because it’s easier than self discovery. It’s funny, so many times we want to stand out and be different, yet when we do for any reason we immediately compare ourselves to whatever is going on around us and shrink back. Not “should’ing” ourselves takes being brave, bold, and standing our ground when those around us want to push us into their “should.”


That reminds me, don’t “should” on other people either! Life is a process and a journey. One that unfolds lessons at different times for everyone. While one person learned a deep rooted lesson about selflessness, someone else might not get that lesson until later on. While that person really understands patience, you might still need some work in that arena.


Being kind and compassionate to yourself and others is way underrated. Honor your journey and the journey of others. The next time you’re standing in a pile of your own “should,” ask yourself where it came from and if you even care? Then notice the things you are doing well.

Peace be with you friend.