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“Should” seems like such a helpful word. We say it to try to motivate ourselves, or to express some hope of success or improvement. But it’s a sneaky little word.


  • I should be cleaning the house
  • I should get up and exercise
  • It should work
  • That should be fine
  • I should be able to get that done this week
  • I should sign up for that class
  • I should tell them to stop
  • I shouldn’t eat so many sweets
  • I shouldn’t get another glass of wine
  • I should go to bed on time
  • I should wake up on time
  • I should get through all my emails
  • You should do more
  • I should do more

But when I’m saying these things, internally, I’m usually beating myself up because I’m usually NOT doing those things. When that’s the case, should creates shame for me.

I should stop saying it.

‘Should’ is a word that is used to set an expectation but implies there is no commitment. “I should exercise every day (but I don’t)“.

It is used to assume and then avoid work. “It should work”:  aka, I don’t want to do the work to find out so let’s just wing it.

It is also used to beat ourselves up.  “I shouldn’t eat so many sweets (but I do and I have no self control. What’s wrong with me?!”).

Don’t take my word for it. The overall sense of criticism i feel when saying “should” is in the definition itself,

should – VERB

  1. used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions: “he should have been careful”
    synonyms: ought to

It can be really helpful to be aware of how often you are “shoulding” yourself. Awareness of the frequency of your “should” is the first step to letting go of the shame that comes along with it. If you can, start to catch yourself and notice how often you use “should”.   Then start to consider different words and see how you feel about them:

  • Turn “I should” into “I will” or even better, “I want to”
  • Turn “I shouldn’t” into “I won’t”
  • Turn “It should work” into “I am confident”
  • Turn “It should be right” into “I know”

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