My relationship with “should”


I have a complicated relationship with “should”

Recently, someone told me to remove that word from my vocabulary. It’s a word that our “self-critic” uses to judge ourselves.

I should eat better.

I should invite that person over.

I should say hi to that person I kind of know sitting at the other end of the coffee shop (which is happening as I write this).

I should work more, volunteer more, exercise more, read more.

I should feel more empathetic, more passionate, braver.

The list of things I should do or feel is long, and never exhaustive. It would never end if I didn’t consciously make myself stop adding to it.

I should stop making that list.

So I get what she was saying – the list can make us crazy. It can make us feel guilty and down on ourselves. We shouldn’t be doing things because we think we should do them, we should do them because we want to do them. The drive should be more than obligation, it should be a deep desire or need to do.

And there’s the “should” again…this is making my head hurt.

But actually…I’m not sure that I agree. I’m not sure it’s realistic. I’m not sure we can live in a world where we only do the things we want to do, or only do things because of a deep desire or need.

A few months ago, a coworker’s father-in-law passed away. Myself and another coworker went to the funeral. Not because we wanted to (does anyone ever want to go to a funeral?), but because we felt we should. And the second she saw us sitting in the pews, she smiled and teared up. She was there to support her husband, her son and her in-laws, but those two friends in the back? They were there to support her. No one else. She knew that, and that felt awesome.

I have another friend who is sick. She has asked us to call her…not just text her. So we do. And it’s hard every time. I’m not a phone person, and it’s extra hard to be a phone person when you’re on the phone with someone who is facing really hard things. But I call her because I should. And each time, it’s a blessing. It’s a blessing when we laugh and tell each other about our days. And it’s even a blessing when it’s hard and we both just cry on our ends of the phone. I call her because I should, and each time I’m grateful that I did.

I’ve gone to parties because “I should go” and met wonderful people. I’ve gone on runs because “I should exercise” and felt strong and healthy afterwards. I’ve said no to the fries and yes to the salad because “I should eat better” and I’m proud of myself when my meal comes.

We don’t live in an entitled world where we get to do what we want. We need to do things out of obligation. That’s just how this works.

But those “should obligations” that lead to meaningful experiences? Maybe they do actually come from a deep desire.

I want my friends to feel supported and loved. I want to meet wonderful people, and feel strong and healthy, and be proud of the decisions I make.

Those are deep desires that appear as should obligations.

I’m still not sure where I land with all this. Honestly? I posted this because I hadn’t posted anything in awhile and thought that I should. So I did.


I have a complicated relationship with should.

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1 Response to My relationship with “should”

  1. Marilyn says:

    You should feel proud of yourself not because of the wonderful things that you do (and there are so many of those things), but because of of caring and strong person you are.

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