October 3, 2021

Stop Saying “Should” & Ask yourself these Four Questions Instead.


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When I am in therapy sessions with my clients, I often say that the word “should” is as harmful as a swear word.

It’s something that we need to avoid using as much as possible.

Initially, I am met with a laugh and sometimes a look that says, “You’re mad.”

However, as time goes on and we begin to discuss the detrimental effect that this one word has on our mind, body, and emotional health, it becomes apparent just how much this word could be costing us.

Here are four alarming reasons why the word “should” needs to be avoided:

It makes us feel under pressure. Every time we use the word “should,” it makes us feel as if we don’t have a choice or another possible option. We feel obliged or feel guilt-tripped into doing something we don’t really want to do.

It takes us away from what we want to do. Most of the time, the “shoulds” in our lives are coming from those around us: family members, partners, children, friends, relatives, or work colleagues.

You “should” work harder.

You “should” really go to show face.

You “should” do it to make your partner happy.

You “should” do it for your children.

You “should” do it because it is the right thing to do.

You “should” be strong.

You “should” get it over it.

None of these “shoulds” belong to us. If we are busy carrying out what we think others would want us to do, then when do we have time to do what we want to do?

The reality is, we don’t. Our happiness, our needs, and our heart’s desires get pushed to the bottom of the list whilst we try to focus on keeping everyone else happy.

Unrealistic expectations make things extra challenging. The goals, tasks, or activities we set for ourselves that are not possible to achieve are not due to our competency or capability, but often due to our circumstances. They could be affected by the resources available to us or the situation we are in.

However, we may be unable to see this because the word “should” creates a blinkered effect, making it difficult to see these barriers in achieving our goals. Instead, we struggle, persist, or continue to run around trying to make it all happen. The only thing that we will achieve is anxiety, stress, exhaustion, or complete burnout.

We feel as if we may have failed, we are a failure, or that we are just not good enough.

It takes us away from our happiness. When we are too busy in life doing what we think we “should” be doing based on the expectations of those around us or based on what we perceive/assume as being right, we take ourselves away from what we want to be doing.

If we take ourselves away from what we truly love, then all we are doing is making ourselves frustrated, annoyed, angry, or resentful in the long run.

How can we possibly be happy if we are living a life that feels as if we are being controlled or dictated by those around us?

Here are two questions we can ask ourselves when we are doing a task, activity, or action:

 >> Am I doing this because I want to do it?

>> Am I doing this because I feel I “should” be doing it?

If the answer is the latter, then ask yourself two more questions:

>> What would I rather be doing?

>> How can I make that happen?”

When we ask ourselves these insightful questions, we will be surprised at how many times we are doing something that we don’t want but instead, feel we “should” be doing.


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