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An Epidemic of "Shoulds"

I'm pretty sure that virtually every client I have ever coached has one specific thing in common...


A nasty habit of should-ing all over themselves.


Maybe we've always been this way as humans, or maybe it's worse in our modern age of information overload and near-constant social visibility. Either way, there seems to be an epidemic of should/shouldn't thoughts going on in the world.


We pick up our "shoulds" from all over the place:

  • expectations in our family of origin

  • religious culture and teachings

  • direct and indirect social conditioning

  • messaging from past relationships, etc.

Essentially, any feedback we have ever received about what it means to succeed at being human has been implanted into our brains as something that we should (or shouldn't) do, say, think, feel, or believe.


Anytime a client comes to me complaining that they are deeply depleted, overwhelmed, or swimming in anxiety, I know there is a long list of shoulds just waiting to be unpacked.


The main problem with shoulds is that they generally originate from someone or somewhere outside of us, which keeps us stuck in a constant cycle of seeking external validation to know if we are worthy and ok.


The simple truth is this:


You are worthy and ok. Period. End of sentence. No debate.


Your worth and right to exist in this world is something that you brought with you when you were born. You cannot prove it or earn it by pursuing that long list of shoulds that you are carrying. You already have it. Your worth is untouchable, no matter who tries to tell you differently.


You could take every single should you have ever internalized and throw it straight to the wind without losing a single drop of your worth and importance.


Show me the list of shoulds that you have acquired over your lifetime and I will show you an instruction manual of who other people want you to be. But what if they were all wrong?


What if the only person in the known universe who could possibly know what you are supposed to do in this world or who you are supposed to become is actually you?


Who do you want to be?


If you think you might want to put aside external expectations long enough to actually get familiar with yourself again, I highly suggest the following framework:

  1. Identify a "should" thought that is driving your current evaluation of your worthiness.

  2. Swap out "should" for "want to." (Example: "I should eat more vegetables," becomes "I want to eat more vegetables.")

  3. Does it still ring true?

  4. If Yes, do you want to do that thing for reasons that you genuinely like? (i.e. reasons that resonate with your highest self, that allow you to live in integrity with your values, that don't require you to reject any part of who you are, etc.)

  5. If No, what do you actually want?! Who do you want to be in this area of your life, and why?

What if you didn't have to spend a single moment more on living your life for other people? What if tapping into who you truly want to be and what you truly want to contribute to the world was actually what the world needs from you?


You might just be one dumpster full of shoulds away from exploring that possibility.


I want that freedom for you. Are you capable of wanting it for yourself?


Be sure to check out Episode 7 of the Radically You podcast for more insights on this topic and a deeper dive into how shame plays into the picture.


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