Don’t “Should” on Me

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. When partners try to “should” on each other, intense conflict almost always results. “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 or you should be strong,
~ I should always be kind or you should always be kind.
~ I should never make a mistake or you should never make a mistake.
~ I should be perfect (a particular curse) or you should be perfect.
~ I should never feel angry or you shouldn’t be angry.
~ I should always be helpful or you should always be helpful.
~ I should never feel sexually attracted to_______or you should never feel sexually attracted to anyone else.
~ I should never be afraid or you should never be afraid.
~ I should always be happy or you should always be happy.
~ I should always help others or you should always help others.
~I should never say “NO” or you should never say NO.

I would guess that you probably have some additional “shoulds” that I haven’t thought about.  If you do, I’d love to hear them.  Either way, I’d love to hear from you.  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.  Some of these “shoulds’ can feel really abusive.  I know.  I’ve been there.   It isn’t necessary to carry these burdens alone–and I definitely do not mean that you should get rid of them. It’s your choice.  I would be honored to talk with you and accompany you on your healing journey.  Please call me at 415-474-6707.  I look forward to hearing from you.



Zora L. Kolkey, MFT
License #23012
Web Site:


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