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Stop “Shoulding” on Yourself!

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Shoulding

Sound familiar? Do you frequently “should” on yourself?

I shouldn’t have said that. I shouldn’t have done that. I shouldn’t have eaten that. I should eat better. I should work out more. I should get more done.

Many people think that being hard on themselves will help them improve or meet their goals. On the other hand, many people fear that if they stopped beating themselves up, they would never get anything done. But is self-hate really an effective motivator? Can’t we motivate ourselves with kindness, passion or encouragement?

I work with people in all walks of life nurses, doctors, personal trainers, teachers, etc. and I often ask them if they speak to their patients, clients or students the way they speak to themselves. They wouldn’t dare. They would likely be fired if they did, not to mention that they often view others with such different standards and with much more compassion than they do themselves. Why do so many people feel compassion and kindness toward others but then turn inward with a whip of selfcriticism and perfectionism?

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Many of us were raised with the belief that if we were kind to ourselves and liked or even loved ourselves, we would be conceited. But is that true? How about upgrading that old program and valuing self-care and kindness as natural needs rather than selfgrandiosity and entitlement?

When someone lives with the internal program of “shoulding” or self-criticism and perfectionism, what usually ends up happening is that they are either very anxious about getting things done and getting them done perfectly, (a thankless, never-ending job since none of us is perfect!) or they end up burning out or rebelling and are unable to get much of anything accomplished. This often leads to feeling depressed because they can’t keep up with their selfimposed rules, regulations and expectations.

Many people should on themselves regularly with unrealistic expectations. They are very driven, perfectionistic, achievement-oriented and outer goal-focused. A human doing rather than a human being.

Others, on the opposite extreme of the spectrum, find it hard to get anything done. They struggle with procrastination and depression and then beat themselves up because they can’t get themselves to do what they set out to do.

Then there are those who bounce back and forth between shoulding and rebelling (anxiety and depression). They may also should on themselves internally but then rebel and can’t seem to get motivated. I used to be a “bouncer.” I was either gung ho on some new diet or completely blowing it off and bingeing. I was either totally into some new workout or I couldn’t get myself off the couch. I was either swearing off alcohol or on an all-out bender. (You might say, I was not a big fan of moderation!)

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So, if listening to your harsh mind messages is one option and rebelling and feeling badly about yourself is the other, you may not realize there is a door number three. Door number three is following your heart. It’s making your choices out of love and kindness and what feels the most right to you, rather than making your choices from a self-imposed whip or rebelling from the beating and going on strike.

The heart is a loving voice. It’s our intuition, our internal GPS. It’s the part of us that is compassionate and kind. But it’s hard to hear that voice when it’s being drowned out by the megaphone of the unkind mind. A kind, intuitive voice is in there though we all have it.

We were not born shoulding on ourselves. We learned every internal rule we have, and fortunately, we can unlearn them. We can learn to delete our harsh mind messages, the same way we can delete a virus from our computer. And we can upload new, kinder, realistic messages. We can get things done from a place of moderation and sanity. We can rest in a place of peace, relaxation and self-worth.

So see if you can take a few moments now and then, and ask your heart, rather than your head, What feels like the most loving thing to do right now? I promise you will still get things done. It just won’t be from an anxious place of trying to prove you are worthy, or a depressed place of thinking you aren’t.

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