How often do you use the word “should”, in reference to yourself or other people? Being an extremely uptight person, I use it profusely. Like most others, I considered it to be an innocent word, and used it imprudently. But now, as I analyze and become more and more interested in how my internal dialogue affects the way I feel about myself, I’ve started to realize just how insidious the word can be. It inherently implies a diktat that cannot be possibly challenged or declined.

As I contemplate, I realize – Telling myself that I should be doing more or be more, doesn’t really help me do more or be more, rather it leaves me feeling that I’m not good enough as I am. Equally, I realize that when I tell others that they should or shouldn’t do something, I’m not respecting or trusting their ability to make decisions for themselves. It doesn’t fit with my personal philosophy (that people are free to do what they want as long as they’re not harming others), and I cannot really be their best friend or well-wisher while using a “should”-based vocabulary.

When we use the word “should,” we’re not accepting reality. We talk about things that we wish were so, but aren’t. It is usually motivated by a lack of acceptance rather than encouragement. You “should” do this and “should not” do that, makes this everyday word a brick with which we build walls. It becomes a fixture in our everyday dialogue.

When we tell ourselves that we “should” be doing something, we’re implicitly reinforcing the idea that we’re NOT doing it. As well-meaning as it might be, it reinforces the negative, and the fact that things are NOT perfect as they are. When we’re focused on how things “SHOULD” be, we murder a lot of possibilities – of what can be or might be. It becomes something to be ‘done with’ (like a duty) whether you really want to do it or not. I have seen that when I do something purely because it needs to be done, my heart may not be in it. When my heart is not in it, I have to force myself to take action (usually accompanied by an underlying resentment). The task is carried out like a chore; but that doesn’t fulfill either me or the supposed beneficiary of that action.

On the other hand, if I do something with the fullness of my heart (and that happens when my own needs in that moment are fulfilled), the action carries the energy of whole-heartedness, which not only fulfills me but also fulfills the recipient of that action. It is desirable to do something of our own accord – when we are not bound by the ‘shoulds’, but because we want to do it.

Since I have had these realizations, I’m on a quest to replace my “should”, as much as possible, with an alternative vocabulary that is healthier and more accepting. And I hope to inspire the same opinion and philosophy in others. Perhaps the only sentence where the word “should” is justified is the title of this post (or it isn’t there either?! 😃 )


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