Don’t “should” on me!

Language is a powerful thing.  I’m constantly amazed at how simple word choices can make such a huge difference in my everyday life.  For instance, if I think to myself, “I can’t…” I feel deflated and ineffectual, but when I think, “I choose not to…” I feel inspired and powerful.

We each make choices about which words we’ll use to describe our lives every single day.  Don’t we all have a friend who almost constantly whines and complains?  Or know someone who uses language that is offensive to us?  I do my best to be hyper aware of my language and which words I choose to use.   I want to use words that are empowering and inspiring as much as possible, especially around my daughter.

When I first became aware of my word choices and their power, I noticed that I apologized a LOT.  I said “I’m sorry” dozens of times a day. I also discovered that I was afraid to speak up, worried about taking up too much space, and I rarely expressed myself very powerfully.  In a way, I was apologizing for my very being!  But it didn’t feel very good, so I systematically trained myself to stop apologizing habitually, and now I only apologize when I really mean it.

As I continued to explore consciously choosing my words, I realized there was a very specific word that I actually despise.  The word is “should.”  Every time I heard the word “should” I was reminded of other people’s expectations for me, and all the times I had been externally motivated.  I realized that I had been living my life to please other people, but I wasn’t really enjoying it at all! So I began working to develop a strong internal motivation, a clear inner sense of yes and no,  and I abolished the word “should” from my vocabulary.

My friends and I worked together to remind one another when “should” crept back into our language by stopping and saying, “Did you just ‘should’ on me?!”  Bringing a little bit of humor to our mission to abolish “should” made it a fun game that we could all play together.  And it really helped to have the support of people who were all committed to conscious word choices.  By the way, if you want an easy and empowering word replacement, try “could” instead of “should.”  It works almost all of the time!

Now that I’m a mom, I’m reminded yet again how important it is to be aware of the words we use when we talk to our kids.  Of course tone of voice, affect, and energy are often even more important than word choice.  But I still think it’s worthwhile to pay attention to the words we use.

After all, our kids will surely parrot those words back to us, and who really wants their 4 year old saying, “Mommy, you should eat your vegetables before your chocolate.”  Personally, I would much rather hear someone ask me if I would or could, rather than telling me that I should.  Don’t the young people in our lives deserve that same respect from their elders?  I sure think so!

I would love to know what you think about the word “should” and it’s impact on young people.  Please share your opinion or story below!

Thanks for being here and have a great day, Shelly


For years I would tell people "Don't should on yourself" There was a certain delight in using should as an alternative to s*#t, enough that it got people thinking anyway.

Of course, i wanted people to think about it - how often do we end up imposing on ourselves things that don't really matter - and even letting those things run our lives. It's a word that steals our own choice, closes down the options, funnels us deftly down the toilet bowl (to stay in theme :) ).

Even further, it's like our own personal guilt trip. And that kind of guilt adds a stress we just don't need.

I think I get more grumpy about it as i get older too. People say they should do things with such dread. My response is, "no you shouldn't." or "Really, why?". Sometimes a bit too impatiently, but really, grow up and take more responsibility for the choice. Even better, if you really should, embrace it and enjoy it. if not, don't do it at all. empower yourself with choice, eliminate the guilt, and love more of life.

I love the power of using could (when you haven't made a decision yet) - it seems so much more full of possibilities.