Going Deeper: Don’t Should On Me

How often do you use the word “should”?  While in counseling, my therapist would say, “Don’t should on me” when I said what I should do.  She was challenging me to remove the implications of duty and necessity that come with the world “should”.

I think about this all the time, when I hear the word, when I say it.  What are the underlying implications ?


When I’m shoulding on someone, am I telling them what I think they are to do based on my own beliefs or values?  “You should do this” or “you should do that.”  Am I doing something based on duty verses doing it because I want to?  “I should talk to this person” or “I should go to church.”

What is actually happening? The fear is that if you or I  don’t do what we “should”, something bad might happen.  It goes something like this:

“Well, you should do _______ (what I would do or what society deems acceptable average behavior) because if you don’t then _______ (perceived negative outcome based on fear and restrictions) will happen.”

The real tragedy is doing something out of expectation or “should” verses doing it from an organic, honest, authentic place internally.

Limiting Freedom

One thing I have learned about myself and others, we do not like being told what to do.  I believe the word “should” limits freedom and suggests we “have to” do, say or be something.

A personal example: a lot of well-meaning people have told me I “should” go back to college and get a degree.  I see the valid points, but that is not what I want to do.

If I go back to college, it will be for me.  Three times I’ve gone to college because I felt that was what I “should” do, and three times it has not worked out.  The life I have lived has been great.  Sure there have been lots of hard times, but those times taught me more about myself than anything else.

The life I am currently living is fantastic and I feel fulfilled. Don’t get me wrong,  if you went to college and you have personal fulfillment due to that decision, that is awesome. What I’m saying is, don’t just do something because you feel like you “should.”  Go deeper.

Our lives are based on us individually, and as such, will look different from other people’s lives.  The beauty of community.  We can get there, we just have to stop shoulding on each other and ourselves.

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