Stop “shoulding” on yourself!

After over a month of fighting with NBC, and “winning”, the wind has left my sails and I’m exhausted.  I keep thinking, “I SHOULD do A” or “I SHOULD be doing B”, and of course, feeling guilty about it.

The instructor and founder of the Grief Coach Academy, Aurora Winter, where I’m now enrolled in the Mastery program, often says, “Stop “shoulding” on yourself”.  Say it quickly enough and you’ll know exactly what she means.

It’s rather futile, this “shoulding” on ourselves, and I would have to agree with her when she says that we would all be better off if the word “should” was removed from the English language.

We have other words that wouldn’t make us feel so badly.  “Could” is an excellent substitute because it doesn’t evoke such feelings of guilt, and enables us to make a decision.  Either I will, or I won’t, but without the guilt.

When we are experiencing any major loss in life, be it a death, a divorce, a missed promotion, or having to give up hope for a different tomorrow, there is always far too much “shoulding” going on.

As a parent, when a child dies, we tend to own it, and although I think that’s universal with any death due to the finality of it, it’s the responsibility of all parents to protect their children. Therefore the guilt is more pronounced.  I managed to feel guilty about pretty much everything, going back as far as university and beyond.  Each decision that caused a change in my life eventually led to her death, which seemed quite rational at the time.

I watched as other people in my family did the same things to themselves, including my mother, Stefanie’s dad, James, Ian…all of us thinking that we “should” have done things differently—all that wasted energy and self-loathing for nothing.  Not one of us was responsible.

So much of what we struggle with around grief is guilt: We should not have held a grudge; we should have tried harder; we should not have said hurtful things etc… Because we can’t change the past, we struggle to get past those feelings and become trapped in grief.

One of the first ways of moving forward is by simply being aware of how many times in a day we say, either aloud or to others, “I should” or “I should or should not have”.  Just even noticing that we’re doing it to ourselves is a huge step forward.

Missing our loved ones, missing an opportunity or a chance at something we truly want, makes us sad, and these things are completely normal and acceptable.  But beating ourselves up and putting ourselves down over it, is not healthy, acceptable or productive

We make so many decisions a day that, inevitably, we’re going to get some wrong and that’s okay.

I’ve read that it takes one month to form a new habit, so start by noticing when you use that word “should”, and without further judgment, let it go and replace it with “could”.

Once we feel better about ourselves in the present, then we can start to work on the more difficult and complicated “should haves” from the past.

One step at a time!

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3 Responses to Stop “shoulding” on yourself!

  1. Teresa Flanagan says:

    It is easy to become mired in self-loathing when we hold a grudge past the point of repair, admit to ourselves that we could have tried harder in certain situations, or feel awful when we say hurtful things to our loved ones. Instead of beating ourselves up over past “should haves, or should not haves”, perhaps we can just utter three simple words today: I am sorry. To honestly atone for our all too human mistakes is to free ourselves from the shackles of destructive guilt. Seems so incredibly simple, yet for many of us, our emotional capacity to get past the barrier of our guilt and summon up those healing words, is lacking. Is it our false pride that holds us back?

    • patriciahung says:

      Great message Teresa! My next post was going to be about Ho’oponopono (not sure if you know what that is) but the idea is EXACTLY what you said.

      I think some times people think it’s too late to say “sorry” after their loved one has passed. It isn’t, and it’s so freeing!

      Thanks for adding such an important piece to this message.

  2. Maria Presta says:

    I know I have been doing this too, since my Mom passed in August. One of the biggest for me, was that I kept feeling that we should not have taken her feeds away. I agree with saying I am sorry, and that it is never to late to do so. Even though medically we made the right decision, guit overpowers.

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