We hear the mental shoulds all the time, “I shouldn’t have said that; I should have done it this way; I should date this person not this person; I should have known better!” We should so much that not only does it make us lose sight of who we truly are, but shoulds also halt the emotions we believe we shouldn’t be feeling, leaving them suppressed and stuck within. We hide the emotions we perceive are less-than-acceptable by those around us through the use of shame.
Shame is the should and should not we’ve heard consistently from others in the past that has become part of our inner critic. We hear thoughts that guide us toward one way of being (example, that girl is out of your league, or you’re not cut out to go for that job). We feel so flawed because we take the shoulds as facts, but they are the furthest thing from fact. They are the internalized social rhetoric you’ve been exposed to for extended periods of time in the past. This can come from childhood maltreatment, bullying, or even from the ongoing suggestions and expectations of others.
Shoulds are the outdated social rules of yesteryears that have become part of our inner critic—the voice was never ours. Today, if we continue listening to its suggestions as fact, we will go no further than the same shaming suggestions Tom, Dick, and Harry burdened us with in high-school. We will re-experience the same cycle: we hear the voice, it elicits an emotion, and then we react to those thoughts and feelings with a behavioural strategy of the past. We may avoid, numb with things like food or alcohol, or even overcompensate to prove our worth. None of this is who we are; it’s a patterned cycle that reinforces the shoulds and shouldn’ts.
Becoming aware of our shoulding critic, and of the emotional states they can put us in, is the first step to dismantling the inauthentic opinions we’ve been holding in our minds. We’ve been guided by the wrong leader. You are not the voice; you are the one who notices the voice. As the noticer, you are compassionate and curious. That is the Self, the soul, the highest you. Notice yourself experiencing the inner critic, and chose to either focus on something else through (mindfulness) or add your own conscious thought that compassionately counters the critic (cognitive reconstruction).
There’s much to be discussed on this topic, so feel free to book a free 20-minute consultation to see how you can dismantle the shoulds and begin living as who you truly are.
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