Shoulding Away Your Life

by Nicole Silverberg

Who should I be? What should I do? How should I be? When should I be doing this? These are questions that often flood our minds and cause us to feel this great sense of anxiety. The anxiety and fear of doing the wrong thing can sometimes hinder us from making any decision at all. Shoulds are constructs that we create for ourselves, but they do not necessarily carry any weight.

Shoulds can be created from many different areas, including:

  • Expectations that we create for ourselves. “I got straight A’s in high school and was a star athlete so I should be able to achieve the same things in college.”
  • Comparing ourselves to other people: “Everyone else is in a significant relationship so I should be in one too.”
  • Our view of societal norms: “I should graduate in four years, have a job when I graduate, and then start a family within a couple of years.”
  • Obligations: “I should be having the best time of my life and have great stories because that’s what people do in college.”

The shoulds we create in our mind cause us to feel an added pressure to achieve certain things that we may not even want for ourselves. Often we get consumed by worry over what others will think of us and it hinders us from creating our own path in life, free of the should. Shoulds create rigid boundaries and rules that we then feel we must adhere to, causing us to feel less satisfied when we do achieve the shoulds because we are doing it for someone or something else, rather than ourselves.

How to move past the shoulds:

  1. Try to recognize it when you hear yourself saying it.
  2. Ask yourself where the should came from?
  3. Do you have evidence to support the should claim?
  4. Do you have evidence against the should claim?
  5. How does the should benefit you?
  6. How does the should hurt you?
  7. How can you create replace the should with something that is obtainable and aligns with what you want?

Allowing yourself to take a moment to dissect the thought, find where it came from, what it means to you allows you to take back the control rather than your thoughts controlling you. When you are aligning yourself with what you want to do as opposed to aligning yourself with what you think you are supposed to do, you will be much happier.

Be free, be happy, and throw out the shoulds! You have the power to create your own path and create your own happiness.


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