I Really Should…

Ever stop to notice how many Shoulds there are in life?

I should go grocery shopping. I should finish editing this chapter. I should call my Mother.

Ever notice how many times that should precedes something we don’t really want to do?

*Waits for the dawning astonishment*

Right?!  For some reason, it hit me the other day how many times in a week I say I should do something. I should feel this way. I should look like Scarlett Johansen.

But who says you should? Your Mom? Your husband? Your kids?

Nope…it’s usually coming straight from us. Once, we played baseball on a warm summer evening with the other kids in the neighborhood without a care in the world. Now we spend our days slogging through the snow to work. Because we should. We’ve become adults. With all the corresponding responsibilities and expectations. They come at us from all sides – society, family, work, from life in general. And they trap us in a web of actions and feelings that may or may not belong to us.

  • Do you really feel like you should act cool and aloof  when all you want to do is dance with excitement because it might make you look stupid?
  • Do you really feel like you should look like the latest It-Girl/Guy, or could you be happy with yourself if society’s expectations weren’t screaming at you?
  • Do you really feel like you should like that group/movie/book/show, just because everyone else thinks it’s fantastic?

Or is that feeling somebody else’s should?

I find I berate myself a hundred times a day for feeling the way I feel instead of the way I should. “Oh, he didn’t mean to call me a cow, he’s just having a bad day. I should just drop it.”  Or “I’m starving and I really want to run out for lunch, but I brought a yogurt. I should eat that so I don’t turn into a blimp.”

Notice something? (And yes, obviously these examples are a little over the top)  Every time we deny our real feelings with something we *should* be doing, we’re treating ourselves like dirt. And even worse, we’re getting farther and farther from who we really are and what we really feel.

Don’t get me wrong – goals serve a purpose to keep us on track with what we need to get done and keep us accountable, and there is always something that we’re going to need to do to keep our job/family/friends/life, but there’s a huge difference between a goal and a should. We choose what goals we want to accomplish. Shoulds have a way of guilting us into doing something. Unfortunately, I don’t think shoulds will ever go away entirely. But today, try noticing how many times you start a thought or sentence with  “I should…” I think you’ll be surprised.

And then practice a little kindness to yourself and say “I want…”


  1. You’ve brought up some interesting points. I’ve never quite thought of shoulds like that.

    “I want”s can be dangerous too. But with all things (wants, needs, shoulds, et al) it’s all about finding the right balance for yourself. I agree that if a person always feels obligated to do things because it’s expected of them or because they’re holding their self up to someone else’s ideal, they need to spend time doing some of what they want. But then there are people who are so caught up in what they want they hardly take the time to consider another person’s needs, or even what’s best for themselves. So yeah, balance is the goal.

    • Great point, Cacy – I wants can be as dangerous as I should! And you’re right, it’s all about balance – I’m the kind of person who goes too far in the “I should” direction b/c I’m a people pleaser, but there are always those on the opposite end of the spectrum!

  2. Good point: ask yourself how many times you say “I should….” I’m sure I could avoid a few headaches if I could manage the should’s better.

    • LOL – exactly the reason for this post! I tend to let those I shoulds get the better of me 🙂 I think a lot of us out there want to do the right thing and be responsible, sometimes to our own detriment!

  3. I thought I had left the “should’s” behind long ago, but they are ever-present. And powerful. Sometimes they are unspoken desires for a certain sense of self – I want to be this kind of person, so I should… But aligning one’s actions with one’s core beliefs is the only way to ever be happy. That I know for sure! 🙂

    • What a great way to put it, Susan! I never thought about it like that, but you’re totally right – so often the person you want to be is influenced by the person you think you should be and then you start focusing on those shoulds – and its just down hill from there!