The word “should” is most debilitating, weighing heavily on our conscious. It’s the heading of that nagging “to-do” list that never gets done and makes me feel like a failure.
- I should lose 10 pounds.
- I should spend more time with my aging parents.
- I should do more volunteer work.
- I should…..
. . . Fill in the blank. We all have that list of things we beat ourselves up for not doing.
It’s a word I have been attempting to delete from my vocabulary for 20 plus years, thanks to a counselor who brought it to my attention.
When I was at the end of my marriage, I went to a marriage counselor. My then-husband refused to go with me, saying “it” was my problem, not his. After months of counseling I walked away with two pieces of advice that I still value today:
You can’t want it more than your partner; and
The word “should” is a bad word.
I wasn’t even aware of how frequently I said “should” back then as I was trying to figure out what I “should” do to make my marriage work. The counselor taught me to reframe the internal conversation by replacing “should” with “could.”
Whereas “should” is negatively judgmental, “could” is empowering. “I could lose 10 pounds” opens up the possibility: “What do I need to do in order to lose 10 pounds? I need to exercise more and/or eat differently. I could eat less or eat different foods.” I have choices. If I opt to reject those changes in behavior I am making the decision to not lose the weight. I won’t feel guilty. I can cross it off the list for the time being, though I’ll likely come back to it again.
The word “should” causes negative emotions, whether towards ourselves or the person to whom we ascribe “should.” “My son should take out the trash without being asked.” This causes me to have a negative emotion toward my son. Anger. Frustration. Disappointment. When I change that thought to: “My son could take out the trash without being asked,” it begs the question as to how to make that happen. If he has a “chore chart” I can write this task on the chart. I can sit down and explain to him that everyone in the home has chores and his chore is to take out the trash. He is expected to take the trash out every day. Would he like me to remind him or does he “have it?” No anger. No frustration. Just a discussion with my son.
“Should” is one of the most unintentionally damaging words we use every day whether in self-talk or when talking about our loved ones. Watch your own language. How frequently do you use the word “should?” Try replacing “should” with “could” and experience how you feel and think differently as a result of that one simple change. Replacing “should” with “could” reframes your thoughts and your emotions and see how much better you feel.
It could change your day!
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