Stop the Shoulds in 5 Steps

These five ways to stop the “shoulds” will help you break free from society’s expectations and be more successful in pursuing your own wants and needs.We all have a voice in our head that tells us what we “should” do, be or have. This voice can come from our parents, friends, media, or society’s expectations. When we live our lives according to “shoulds,” we lose touch with our own wants, needs, and desires. The result is a feeling of unhappiness, frustration, and even resentment.

Here’s how to stop the “shoulds” and start living life on your own terms.

  1. Identify your “Shoulds”
  2. Challenge Your Beliefs
  3. Embrace Self Compassion
  4. Create your own Values and Goals
  5. Practice Gratitude

1. Identify your “shoulds.”

A should is an opinionated statement about what someone else or even ourselves should do or not do in order for something else to happen (usually related to happiness). For example: “I should lose weight so I look good.” Or another example: “My partner should love me back.” These types of statements are usually based on some type of expectation rather than reality; they are often unrealistic expectations which lead us down a path towards unhappiness.
The first step to breaking free from the “shoulds” is to identify them. This means being mindful of the expectations and beliefs you hold about yourself and others. Ask yourself questions like “What do I feel I should do?” or “What am I supposed to be like?” Write down the answers, and reflect on how these “shoulds” are impacting your life.
Identify where they came from: If a particular belief feels especially powerful, ask yourself where it came from. Perhaps this belief was ingrained in you by your family or culture as a child; maybe it’s something that took root after an experience at work or school; or maybe there was an event in childhood that shaped how we perceive ourselves (like getting teased for having red hair).

2. Challenge your beliefs.

If you’re feeling dissatisfied in your life or with yourself, it might be time to challenge some of the “shoulds” that you’ve been holding onto. For example, think about whether or not you truly feel that having a good job means making lots of money, or if you’ve internalized society’s standards for success? Are you focusing on what you want to achieve in life, or what others want for you? Another strategy is to evaluate your “shoulds” in terms of their usefulness. Is living life by this belief helpful or harmful? Does it foster growth and fulfillment? Challenging your beliefs is an important part of developing self-awareness. It helps you recognize the ways in which your thoughts, feelings and behaviors are influenced by others’ expectations.
To Challenge a belief: Ask yourself whether or not it’s true that everyone else has this belief as well (i.e., if it’s “everyone should have a good job”). Then ask yourself how much evidence there is for this idea being true (i.e., do most people really feel unhappy unless they’re making lots of money?). If there isn’t much evidence supporting the idea, then it might be wise to reconsider whether or not this belief serves you well in life and whether or not there are other ways of thinking about things that might make more sense for who YOU are right now!

3. Embrace self-compassion.

It can be easy to criticize yourself when you fall short of your own expectations, but these negative self-judgments only hold you back. Instead, practice treating yourself with acceptance and kindness. Remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes and has imperfections — including you!
Develop a more balanced view of your capabilities. If a project or task is too big for one person (or even two), don’t try to do it all by yourself–it’s likely that the end result won’t be as good as if more people had worked on it together anyway! If there are tasks in which others could help out, ask them for their input before making any decisions about what needs doing next; this will help ensure that all parties involved feel heard while also increasing the likelihood that everyone will stay motivated throughout this process (and not just wait around until someone else takes charge).

4. Create your own values and goals.

When you stop living according to “shoulds,” you open up the space to create your own values and goals. This means taking the time to understand what truly matters to you and what you want to achieve in life.
We all have “shoulds” in our lives. You should go to the gym, or you should eat healthy, or you should learn a new skill. These are all good things to do—in theory. But sometimes they lead us down a path of guilt and stress when we don’t do them. If you can stop these “shoulds” from becoming an oppressive force in your life, then you can be happier. Here are some tips on how to do just that:

5. Practice gratitude.

Gratitude is a powerful tool, and it’s one that you can use to help you stop the shoulds in your life.  Practicing gratitude in daily life can involve several simple but effective habits, some of which include:

  • Keeping a gratitude journal: Writing down things you are grateful for each day can help shift your focus to the positive and improve overall well-being.
  • Expressing gratitude to others: Take time to thank people who have made a positive impact on your life, either in person, over the phone, or through a written note. 
  • Perform acts of kindness: Doing something kind for others can make you feel good and foster a sense of gratitude.
  • Reflect on past experiences: Think about experiences in your life for which you are thankful and how they have shaped you into who you are today.

Remember, gratitude is a practice and it may take time to fully incorporate it into your daily life, but the benefits are well worth the effort.

Help Stopping The Shoulds in the Denver Area

If you can begin to stop the “shoulds” in your life, you can be happier. You’ll be able to live more authentically and follow your own path. So don’t wait another day before making this change! We’re here to help. We invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation with a therapy specialist.  You can learn more about our Therapy services by clicking this link.

We’ll discuss your feelings and support you so you can help others at a healthy level – no overdoing it.  We can help you see both the positive and negative impacts of being overly involved in helping others.