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Cut the Should

I am not a weight-loss coach, but there is one elimination diet that I would recommend you try this year to feel better.

A few notes about this diet – it has nothing to do with what you put in your mouth and everything to do with what comes out of it. Also, you won’t lose any weight while on it, but you will undoubtedly feel lighter after even just one day of implementing it.

Cut out all SHOULDs from your vocabulary.

So many of us do this and we don’t even realize it:

“I should call her.”

“I should want to go to the party.”

“I shouldn’t have eaten that.”

“I should feel more grateful.”

“I should read to my kids every night.”

Should seems so well meaning and so harmless - like a subtle suggestion of what you could be doing differently to get you closer to where or who you want to be. It might even seem motivational on the surface, but it actually has the opposite effect.

In fact, you create an emotional deficit when you continue to tell yourself what you should or should not be thinking, saying, feeling or doing. This is because every time you should yourself, you are diminishing where you are and you are fighting with reality. Should-ing forces you to focus on what you did or didn’t do and telling yourself why it was the wrong choice. Take exercise or social media for example. These are two common areas where I find people are should-ing all over themselves.

“I should exercise more.”

“I should scroll on social less.”

But if you aren’t exercising more, and you aren’t scrolling less, these statements are just causing you what I like to call “should shame.”

“Should shame” is that inner battle that occurs when you think you should be doing something one way but you’re not, therefore it makes you wrong or bad or weak – whatever label you put on it. It also implies that what you ARE doing is not enough. In turn, you might start to feel like YOU are not enough. Again, more shame.

One reason we experience “should shame” is because the should aligns with an external expectation versus an internal desire. Take the examples above – exercise and social media scrolling. You might think you should be exercising more because of societal pressure to look a certain way. Or because you think working out equates being healthy.

But do you want to exercise more?

Do you want the result that comes from exercising?

Or do you simply think you should?

With social media, many people think scrolling less is synonymous with being a good mom or a present partner. When you are scrolling you are missing precious moments with your kids, disconnecting from your spouse, and replacing real life relationships with false connection. The experts would all agree!

Does this sound familiar?

When you classify an action as something you should do (i.e.: scroll less) to be a certain way (i.e.: a good mom) then you are always “bad” if you don’t prescribe to it.

Now, I am not saying you should forgo your goal to work out more or to scroll less if that’s what you really want, but should-ing your way to the desired outcome is not the route to go. Hence, our vocabulary elimination diet.

Here are some simple steps to consider for the should elimination diet:

First, I want you to pay attention to where and when you are should-ing yourself in life. Just becoming aware of it might be a huge wake-up call for you. Most of these shoulds are just thoughts we think, so you have to start paying attention to that voice in your head.

Once you pin-point your should I want you to focus on how the should FEELS in your body. This might seem foreign, but come with me. Say the should to yourself and then check in with how it makes you feel. I called it “should shame” but get specific with how it makes you feel. Is it shame for you? Is it guilty? Is it motivated?

Next, I want you to start talking back to you. As soon as you tell yourself you should “fill-in-the-blank,” I want you to ask yourself WHY and the keep questioning those thoughts:

Why do I think I should do this?

Who am I aiming to please?

How does this align with my goals?

Once you answer those questions you might see your should in a totally different way. If the action is something you want to do for you then find a way to motivate and inspire yourself to do it versus “should shaming” yourself.

Rather than, “I should exercise more,” consider “I always feel better when I exercise.”

Instead of, “I should scroll less,” consider “I feel more connected at home when I put my phone away.”

Words matter and when we get more mindful about them, the way we feel completely changes. We start to become our own cheerleaders versus drill sergeants. We start to feel lifted up versus beaten down. And from that place, we are able to start making positive changes toward a life we love.

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