I Should... Shouldn't I?

The other night I was journaling and self-coaching before drifting off to sleep.
 I try to do this at least once a week to keep my mind and heart clear for my work and life, but I'll admit - it had been a while.

As I started to write, I realized that the areas where I was feeling most stuck were only stuck because they were filled with endless 'shoulds'.

It went something like this: I'm not a good mother... I'm impatient, cranky at bedtime, get bossy, not fun enough, don't play enough, am too worried about nutrition...

The list of self-judgements continued for a while...

Then I managed to step back and asked myself - why?  Why do I feel this way?  Why am I judging myself so harshly?

And then it hit me - because inside my head lurks a huge list of what a "good mother" should be.  I also have one for what a "good singer" is, what a "good wife" is, what a "good business" is, and more.

These lists have served as subconscious comparisons for myself, as well as for others, and, to be honest, I NEVER measure up.  Nor does anyone else.

Which leaves me feeling  pretty sh@*^y.  About myself, my life, my choices, and sometimes those around me.

The real problem, though, is not that I'm not living up to these 'shoulds'.  The real problem is with the 'shoulds' themselves.

Should, by definition, implies obligation or expectation.  When obligation is not met, shame arises.  For anyone who's read the work of Brené Brown, you know that shame is perhaps the ultimate soul crusher:

“Shame works like the zoom lens on a camera. When we are feeling shame, the camera is zoomed in tight and all we see is our flawed selves, alone and struggling." ― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Shame invites further feelings of doubt, unworthiness, even emptiness and despair.  And under this veil, no soul can sing freely.  My 'shoulds' were sticking me in a shame spiral - no wonder I felt stuck!

So how do we release shame?

Drop the 'shoulds'.  For every 'should', replace it with 'could' and then make a choice depending on what feels like freedom.  Should invites shame, and shame suffocates the soul.  (TWEET THAT)

Empathy.  For yourself, first and foremost, then for those around you.  I wrote a few months ago on self-compassion, and this is part of it.  You are human.  You are inherently imperfect.  So is everyone else.  You are also inherently beautiful.  Take note of your goodness and let your true self shine.

Own your truth.  Acknowledging your story, in all its messiness, allows it to breathe and releases further shame.  It also allows you to be vulnerable, and:

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” ― Brené Brown


When I looked at my list of how I wasn't measuring up last night and realized that the standards I was holding myself to were a conglomeration of 'shoulds' that no mere mortal could ever possibly live up to, I was able to not just let it go, but laugh and see the ridiculousness my mind had created.  When I saw the truth, I also saw acceptance.


Yes, I'm impatient and cranky and bossy and not fun sometimes.  But I'm also loving and nurturing and kind and patient at other times.  And more importantly, I'm doing the best I can.  Just like you are.Comment below!  Where are you 'should'ing yourself into shame?