Stop Shoulding Yourself

Good afternoon, Dear Reader. I bet you ask yourself, “When can I expect Denise to make a post?”. And the answer is, “There is no rhyme or reason to my schedule.” I’m all willy-nilly these days. I’ve been playing around with my analytics, though, and it seems that Tuesdays and Saturdays get the most traffic. Hmmm. Interesting.

I’m stepping into my space as the self-proclaimed logophile and asking you, Dear Reader, to examine the word “Should”. How often do you say this to yourself or allow others to say it to you? Here are some examples of how the word should have impacted me this week (and it is only Tuesday, FFS.)

  • “You should exercise more.”
  • “You should totally quit that job.”
  • “You should drink 128 ounces of water each day.”
  • “You should tell them you were the PTA President.”
  • “You shouldn’t borrow against your 401K.”
  • “You shouldn’t drink wine on Mondays.”

Should. Shouldn’t. What awful words. Why? For an elementary-level term, it’s full of judgment and conditions. I’ve grown weary of anyone who says to me, “You should (Fill in the blank)”. Should I? Should I really? Why? So you can feel better about passing your judgment on to me instead of worrying about what you should do? See what I did there.

As I age, I realized I’ve spent the better part of my life shoulding myself – not to mention listening to the other shoulders (should + ers, as in ‘people who use the word should’ not ‘shoulders’ like the body part. And yes. I think I just made that word up). I’m taking a stand this year, and I’m not gonna let such a little word hold so much meaning over me. I hope you’ll read on and join with me in blocking out the shoulds I tell myself and ignoring other people’s shoulds.


Grab a drink. Settle in. I’m about to tell you.

I’ve placed all kinds of limits, expectations, judgments, and decision-making merit on myself in the past because of that little elementary-level word. I’m totally into embracing a new narrative this year, and I’m going to start with these five. Maybe some will resonate with you.

1) I should be further along by now. Um. Nope. I’m right on time. Case in point: I recently went back to work at a place I really enjoy, and I took a salary reduction. A few of my colleagues made some jokes at my expense about returning, and for a few days, I humored them. Then it got old. And I called them on it – in a sidebar conversation that included a few choice words resembling something like “Fuck you. You don’t know my story.” Here’s the thing: I’m right on track for my own path. You are, too. Stop telling yourself you should be further along by now.

2) I should do what makes them happy. Um. Nope. I don’t have to live up to others’ expectations. Not at work. Not at home. Not anywhere. I am not responsible for anyone else’s feelings or emotions. And while the recovering co-dependent in me sometimes thinks differently and even, at times, feels differently in my gut…my soul understands this ancient truth.

3) I should look more like them. Um. Nope. I don’t need to look like anyone else but myself. I work with many Millenials and Gen Z., And I have a full head of gray hair that I have colored to ‘fit in’ with the gang at work for years. But every one of those hairs on my head represents wisdom, experience, and a level of patience that I didn’t have when I was ‘their age.’ So yeah. I’m fluffy in some places. I’m going grey. I have laugh lines and forehead wrinkles. I’m embracing these things.

4) I should be working harder/longer. Um. Again, nope. I can listen to my body and take breaks when I need to. All those years of ‘wisdom and experience’ I mentioned above? It means I can sometimes do in 20 minutes what it takes a new person 40 minutes to do. I don’t believe that it’s my fault they are inexperienced and not as bright as me. (Wink wink) Right? Right. I also have learned to embrace a dirty kitchen if it means spending time with my child in the evening. I didn’t use to think this way. But life is short. Spend it with the people you love before they are gone. There will always be a kitchen to clean, trust me.

5) I shouldn’t be thinking about what I need. Um. (You know where I’m going with this…) Nope. It is not selfish to take care of myself, and therefore I will start asking myself, “What do you need, Babycakes?” more often. For example, I am an insomniac. It’s not easy for me to fall or stay asleep. I used to just roll over and embrace another sleepless night when snoring came – loudly – from the other side of the bed. I don’t do this anymore. I need my sleep, and if there are other bedrooms or sofas in which I can find that rest, you best believe I’ll be there. The same goes for anything I needed that I used to ignore. I will think about what I need because I count, too. Right? Right. And so do you.

So, Dear Reader, how have you been shoulding yourself these days? I can’t be the only one telling myself I should drink more water, drink less wine, exercise more, and rest. Spill it. I’m all ears.

Until then, here’s your song. I just spent the better part of 895 words telling you to ignore ‘should’. I still think, though, you should be dancing. Just sayin’.

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