“You Shut Up, Should!”

“Should” is a dangerous word when you add the word “You” in front of it. “You should” is typically the beginning of someone telling you what’s wrong with you.

It’s especially caustic when we speak “you shoulds” to ourselves.

“You should be stronger than this.”

“You shouldn’t look like this.”

“You shouldn’t be here still.”

“You should have done things differently.”

“You should be past this.”

  • Says who?
  • Does this motivate you at all, or make you feel more discouraged?
  • Doesn’t this feel like a passive-aggressive thug?

Who is this bully named “Should?”

I’ve spent my life being kicked around by “Should.” He whispers at night; yells during the day. He talks incessantly, loudly, recklessly–about everything he doesn’t see in me. When I let him encourage my doubts, he always makes me feel . . ..  Small. Defeated. Useless. Meaningless. Worthless.

Should compares us to infinity. EVERYTHING, literally EVERYTHING that we are not–that’s what Should compares us against. EVERYTHING!! Then he tells us that we’re lacking! It’s actually . . . kinda ridiculous when you think about it. If it weren’t so painful, it would be comical.

Amanda, a friend from Orange Theory, recently scheduled a Celebration Session–a session to celebrate her season in life. It’s a pretty spectacular season now! After clawing through years of an arduous, painful winter, she is growing anew. Amanda has transformed her body into health, and continues seeing her mind renewed. She’s a tough Momma of 2, and she’ll embarrass you if you work out next to her. When she laughs, it sounds like light spilling into the room.

Now that families don’t hire scribes, portraits are the records of our histories. These are a few of Amanda’s images that tell her story.

“You’re stronger than you thought.”

“You look amazing.”

“You’re not there still.”

“You did everything differently.”

“You’re moving past all that.”

She is a picture of change. She’s one of the brave ones who stared down the “Should” bully and kicked him in his ridiculous, un-flossed teeth. Her life screams, “You Shut Up, ‘Should’!”


So how do we beat the life-draining “Shoulds” that discourage us? I’m no guru of change, but here’s what I’m doing:

  1. Listen to my thoughts, paying keen attention to the times I tell myself that “I should _______ .”
  2. Replace the word “Should” with a word that actually helps! Instead of “I should,” It becomes “I can/will/won’t.”
  3. Recognize that the Should Bully compares me against EV.ERY.THING. that I’m not–physically, emotionally, financially, intellectually. I then delight in the fact that I am not God, I am finite, and I’m not supposed be everything. Whew! [This is where the “I won’t” phrase is extra-helpful.]
  4. Throw a 10-second party. Slay the “I should” pattern with this ending: “I did ________ .” Pick a victory, big or small, and take 10 seconds to re-celebrate the win.

What about you? I’d love to hear how you slay the self-doubt Shoulds. Share it in the comments below. And if you know someone that has/can tell Should to “shut up,” kindly share this post with them.

You don’t have to share, but I think that you should can/will/won’t.


-mr. bill

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