The above statement is one of my favorite bumper stickers. It is a reminder of one of the ways in which we both allow others to tyrannize us and tyrannize ourselves. “Shoulds” come from cultural, parental and peer expectations and we accept them because we need to feel loved, to belong and to feel safe and good about ourselves.
We act on “shoulds” because we believe that they are true, and that’s how we give them power over us. If we don’t live up to our “shoulds” or to someone else’s “shoulds”, we feel that we are unworthy–a bad person. Our self-esteem is impacted and we torture ourselves with self-blame and guilt.
Look over the following list of “shoulds” and notice which impact on your feelings about yourself:
~ I should be strong.
~ I should always be kind.
~ I should never make a mistake.
~ I should be perfect (a particular curse).
~ I should never feel angry.
~ I should always be helpful.
~ I should never feel sexually attracted to____________.
~ I should never be afraid.
~ I should always be happy.
~ I should always help others.
If these or any other “shoulds” are keeping you from living your life to the fullest in the way that you want to live it, I invite you to explore healthy ways of dealing with them. It really isn’t necessary to carry these burdens around–and I definitely do not mean that you should get rid of them. It is all your decision and depends on how you feel about them.