Updated: Jun 7, 2019
Have you seen an infographic on Pinterest that lists “25 things girls in their 20’s should be doing”?. You tell your little sister, “you know what you should do...”. You vent to your partner about a frustrating conversation at work and they say “you should have said...” This particular word produces more resistance than we realise.
Now I know that whoever created that blog on Pinterest designed it to help people. I also just want to give advice to my baby sister because I love her (and I’m older and wiser). And I know my partner is a typical man and just wants to fix things. But that word... SHOULD.... as soon as I hear it coming, I disengage. I don’t know what it is. So I tested this, I replaced the word Should with Could. And my conversations, and relationships became a little easier.
We’ve all dealt with resistance from others and within ourselves... some people more than others. Do you have someone in your life who constantly questions things? Someone who resists change? Or even the idea of change? When we make our To Do list, whether it’s conscious or not, there’s always that thought of “I should get all of this done today/this week”. How many of us procrastinate after this thought has crossed our mind? Are there any self-sabotagers out there who can see the finish line and then just quit? I’ve done that with weight loss a few times. So why do we do these things? It’s hardwired into our brains to rebel against things we’re being told to do. It’s estimated that across the world up to 50% of people are not taking the meds they’ve been prescribed by their doctors (ref). Because someone has TOLD them to do it. Oh sure, they listed all the reasons about why the patient SHOULD take their meds, and the patient understands all of this but that inner rebel, she/he’s a menace.
So what does this mean? Well I’m not a psychologist, but I came across this article on Psychology Today called “Self-Sabotage: The Enemy Within” which goes through a couple of ways you may be self-sabotaging. I found it to be quite an easy read and very eye-opening. It turns out that self-sabotage is just one facet to the power of the word Should. It also sets unrealistic expectations, elicits feelings of guilt, and makes you not want to do something you normally would enjoy. Another example is reframing, "I should workout today" into "I enjoy working out because of how it makes me feel afterwards".
To find out more on the power of Should, here’s another article from Psychology Today.
Moral of my story, try substituting the word “Should” with “Could”, or “Would” i.e I would like to visit my grandmother. Think of it as mental health first aid, to pre-empt our own high expectations and limit the unnecessary stress and pressure we put on ourselves. Additionally you might find that by changing that one word, you might feel more positively towards that task. And therefore, more likely to get it done, and enjoy the process a little more. See what happens and let me know!
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