Are You “Should-ing” Yourself?

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“It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this”

“I shouldn’t feel this way”

“You shouldn’t have acted like that”

Experiencing frequent “should” statements is a common thinking pattern that many of us use daily. Whether through society, family, or our own doing, we have created endless expectations of what it takes to be a “good enough” person. 

Focusing on how things “should” be may be amplified during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The global situation has greatly affected daily life, and with so much uncertainty, we may be experiencing increased pressure to think, feel, or behave in a certain way: 

“I should be even more productive than I normally am since I am spending more time at home”

“I must feel happy and positive all the time because others have it far worse than me” 

Consider exploring how to identify and reframe this limited way of thinking by incorporating 

some of the practices below. 

Tips to Overcome “Should” Thinking

1. Mindfullness:

Focus on the present. Try shifting your attention to “what is” instead of “what should be”. This encourages you to be tuned into the moment and let go of any assumptions that may be limiting your potential.

2. Healthy Emotional Expression:

Allow yourself to identify, feel, and process your emotions in a healthy way. Not only can this help you understand yourself in a more intimate capacity, but it can also prevent a buildup of repressed or ignored feelings. Some tools for emotional expression include:

  • A consistent journaling practice
  • Creating art
  • Tracking your mood via an app
  • Talking to supportive people in your life
  • Working with a mental health professional

3. Be Curious:

When “should” thoughts arise, be curious about them. Take a moment to reflect and ask yourself: “Am I doing this because I want to or am I doing this because I feel like this is an expectation of what I should be doing?” If the answer is because you feel like you should, become curious about that, as well: “Why do I feel like I should be doing this?”, “What will happen if I don’t do this?”

Notice if this curiosity and exploration change your choice – it may not and that’s okay. Simply checking it with yourself and being able to identify whether something is a “should” or a “want” is freeing, empowering, and reveals your true intentions. 

4. Reframe:

When you notice yourself thinking “should” statements, replace them with a more liberating statement such as “I can…”, “I will…” or “I want to…” 

“I can be disappointed and grateful at the same time” 

“I will meditate to start my day because I feel relaxed when I take some quiet time for myself” 

“I want to practice being a better listener and not interrupt my partner when we have discussions” 

If none of those replacement words are accurate, even reframing your “I should…” into “I feel pressure to…” more authentically expresses what you are feeling and reclaims your power over the situation. 

5. Demystify Assumptions:

Notice what are the life-long beliefs, expectations, and assumptions you hold. Explore where these come from and if they truly align with your values. If they are not representative of your authentic self, reflect on some more aligned beliefs you can replace them with. Give yourself permission to let go of these limiting assumptions and integrate a more genuine approach when making personal choices. 

Although you may have completed the most difficult part of your recovery journey, true recovery takes time to re-program negative thoughts and move into a more healthy mindset. Learn more about our sober living program today!

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