Stop "Shoulding" On Yourself: Rethinking Negative Self-Talk

Dec 23, 2018

Do you find yourself saying "I should be doing this," or "I shouldn't be eating that."

Here is a concept you can implement into your life when speaking to friends and family or in your own self-talk.

From Dr. David Burns, author of Feeling Good.
If you look up the word, “should” in one of those huge dictionaries, you will see that it’s origin traces back to the Anglo-Saxon word, “scolde.” So, essentially, you are scolding yourself for having some flaw or shortcoming when you use the word, “should.”

You can combat these painful types of self-criticisms in many ways, but one of the easiest is the Semantic Method—you simply substitute gentler language, such as “I would like to be a better teacher” (or therapist, or Dad, or whatever). Then you can focus on the specifics of what you are doing in your teaching, for example, that’s effective, or ineffective, and make a plan for improvement, if needed.

 


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I find this to be especially important with dieting.  
"I should get to the gym more often."  
"I shouldn't eat that cupcake if I want to stay Keto."

While these statements may be true from your perspective, it doesn't help you cultivate a productive mindset when you set yourself up for failure or feeling guilt if you don't live up to your Should Statements.  You are your biggest critic and you hold yourself to higher standards than anyone else in your life.

Why not try replacing your Should Statements with this, instead...
"If I went to the gym more often, I would feel great and reach my goals faster."
"I like my keto lifestyle and the enjoyment from that cupcake will be fleeting."

This is also a powerful concept when communicating with the people in your life.  If you "should" your spouse, for example, you are placing your high expectations on them and setting them up to disappoint not only you, but themselves.  This will inevitably breed resentment between the two of you.
"You should mow the lawn today."
"You shouldn't sleep so late."

Being more mindful of how we speak to ourselves and to each other can develop a powerful awareness of the strength of our language, both negative and positive.  None of us are perfect. And it's time to let go of the notion that we need to be. All we can do is recognize our aspirations and strive to make regular improvements to move us along that spectrum if personal progress.

You should try it!

-Hill

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