Imprisoned by Should Statements


We have all heard of the saying “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve”. Some of us are all too familiar with the imprisonment of should. Should statements are a cognitive distortion or unrealistic expectation or standard that individuals often use to measure themselves, their choices or their lives. Should statements can also be placed on others as well. It is easy to get caught in the web of should. It is almost a common response when we feel as if we have not met the standard that we have set for ourselves or that others have not met the expectations that we expected of them. The problem with should statements is that they can many times leave you with overwhelming guilt, regret or anger.

Since entering my thirties, I have dealt with a surplus of shoulds. I should be married at this age. I should be a homeowner. I should be further a long in my career. I should have made this choice or I should not have made that choice. Should statements keep you trapped in a prison of never feeling good enough and not feeling content with the present moment. Should statements blind you from viewing the process of your journey. Should statements disable you from practicing gratitude for your life as it is. There is always something to be grateful for and there is always a reason to love yourself. Even if you have not met all of the shoulds that you think should have been accomplished, you still have so many reasons to be proud of yourself.

Each person is on a separate journey. It is unfair for us to judge our journey, our behavior, and our lives in comparison to other people or what we believe are societal norms.

Should statements are referred to a distortions because they are irrational beliefs that are not based in evidence. There is no absolute or set guideline for where a person should be or which choice a person should make. Shoulds are often rarely thoughts that derive from the present. Should distortions are usually rooted in reflecting on past choices or mistakes or future goals that an individual believes they ought to have accomplished.

Should statements rarely lead to positive emotions. They bring about emotions such as anxiety, worry, guilt, regret, shame and other overwhelming emotions. A trick to challenging your should statements is to focus on the present moment. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to make sure that should statements do not slip into your mind. Since should statements are rarely based in the present, being intentional with mindfulness will help you to make an effort to change your thought patterns to only the things happening in the present moment.

Should statements are a prison that keep your mind trapped into an endless cycle of guilt and regret. Free your mind by challenging negative thought patterns and by focusing on what is happening in the present moment.