In my last blog post, I discussed the power of anxious flexibility in chipping away at rigid or limiting beliefs. Today, I introduce a tool for expanding flexibility… Stop shame–shoulding!
We tend to should ourselves a lot… “I should have known better.” “I should have stopped it.” “She/he should understand me better.” “He/she should care too.” “I should be more like [fill in the blank].”
Sometimes “shoulds” can be helpful for keeping us in line with our goals and values. Sometimes shoulds help us set boundaries and reinforce our inherent worth. For example, no one should have to put up with abuse from another person. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect…
But, more often than not, shoulds put unrealistic and limiting expectations on ourselves and others, and they cause undue stress and anxiety when these expectations are not met. Also, we often use shoulds that come from other people’s expectations or societies’ expectations, instead of our own beliefs and values.
Soooo… when you notice yourself using the word, “should,” ask yourself where this should is coming from. Is it coming from your mother? Is it coming from social media? Is it coming from your friend circle? OR is it coming from your own beliefs and values?
Next, ask yourself whether this should is truly realistic or if it is limiting you or keeping you stuck in some way.
If your should is coming from your personal beliefs and values and is not unrealistic or limiting, this is probably what I call, “a good should.” A good should will help you set an important boundary, reinforce your inherent worth, and/or promote self-growth and fulfillment, rather than anxiety, shame, and resentment.
But, if this should is coming from outside expectations that are unrealistic or limiting OR if the should serves to beat you down rather than build you up, this is what I call, “a shaming should.” If this is the case, then repeat after me…
STOP SHAME-SHOULDING YOURSELF!
If your should is putting unrealistic expectations on others, beating others down rather than building others up, or if it causes paralyzing resentment toward others, then repeat after me…
STOP SHAME-SHOULDING OTHERS!
You deserve to have good shoulds in your life. Shoulds that shame are not worth your time. This week, practice good shoulds instead of shame-shoulds.
Until next time,
Have courage and kind wishes!
Tannah E. Chase, Ph.D.
The Anxiety Counseling Clinic, P.L.L.C.