Monday, March 24, 2014

Don't Should On Yourself

Let's talk about mental health and talk therapy for a second, shall we?

There's such a stigma about those two things in our society today, that there is something wrong with people if they have mental health issues, that they are weak if they seek help from a therapist.

Well, friends, I am here to dispel those stigmas: for the past six months or so, I have been attending therapy; it started out as once a week (I was kind of a hot mess) and is now once every two weeks. And, while I don't necessarily need therapy anymore, I cannot imagine not going, as it is just so nice to "talk it out" with someone who is not at all involved in the situation.

Side note: if you are considering talk therapy, just make sure you find the right therapist for you. About a year ago, I went to a different person based on a friend's recommendation, and he just was not the right fit for me. (He was an older gentleman who sat across the room from me, writing everything I said on his notepad, not really offering suggestions. It just felt...awkward. And, I didn't feel like I could be honest with him.) So, I stopped going altogether, claiming that I was "just fine." When I became a hot mess (again), I found someone new and totally just clicked. (She sits closer than across the room, she might jot down a quick note but doesn't even have a notepad out during session, and it feels like I'm talking to a good girl friend.)

So anyway, it might take a few visits to find "Mr. or Ms. Perfect," but it's so worth it.

One thing that Mollie ("my therapist" just sounds funny) has really brought to my attention is how often I use the word "should":

I should be married. I should have kids. I should own a house. 
I should be skinnier. I should work out everyday. I should never have ice cream.
I should not sit at home and watch TV all day. I should read more books.
I should go to that event. I should go back to school.
I should have stood up for myself. I should not have been so nice.

Essentially, when I tell myself everything I should be doing or everything I should have, I am simply subscribing to (often perceived) external expectations, ideas that I believe are right and good: for example, good people are married and have kids at my age. And when things aren't as I think they "should" be, I inherently assume there is something wrong with me. I should be skinnier, so the fact that I'm not means that I am a horrible human being.

And when I start believing there is something wrong with me, I tailspin into what that could possibly be, which causes me anxiety up the wazoo. (Who says that anymore? Me, apparently.)

In addition to feeling anxiety, thinking of all of the should statements makes me dejected, defeated. After all, should is an instrument of regret. I mean, how can it not be? For instance, if I believe I should be married now, that means that I also believe I should have done something differently: perhaps I should have married my high school sweetheart. Maybe I should have broken up with my college boyfriend earlier so that I could have met someone while I was still in college. Or, perhaps I should have dated so-and-so, even though I wasn't attracted to him.

Having a "should" mindset inherently leaves me living in the past, feeling sorry that things turned out the way they did, rather than living in the present, feeling thankful and grateful for the way things are now.

While Mollie and I talked about the should issue months ago, I am by no means perfect, and I still think there are things I should do.

For instance, when I went on that date a few weeks ago, I tried to convince myself that I should like the guy, that I should go on a second date with him. I mean, he was very nice, very thoughtful, very sweet, etc. He is everything that I should like in a guy. Because he's the guy that I should like but that I didn't, there is obviously something wrong with me. As soon as I realized the thoughts that were happening up there, I had to give myself a stern talking to, persuading myself that it was perfectly fine that I didn't want to go on a second date, that I didn't feel attracted to him, etc. (How crazy do I sound now with all that self-talk?)

But, the key is that I am cognizant of when and how often I use the word should and that I am actively trying to eliminate it from my vocabulary. By doing so, I have found it much easier to live in the present, to be grateful for things that I do have, and to live by my own expectations, things that are right for me.

I just feel happier.

And since we're talking about mental health and therapy, in addition to seeing Mollie every other week, I actually have a twice daily form of therapy as well:

This blog is so therapeutic for me. I am grateful for the opportunity to write, and I am so indelibly thankful to you, friends, who read this blog, who support me, and who love me. Thank you.

For additional resources on the importance of eliminating should from your vocabulary, check out this article from Mind Body Green (I sure love that site) and this one from Tiny Buddha.

Do you have (or have you had) a should problem? How have you succeeded in living in the moment rather than in the past or in the future?

post signature


  1. This was like free Therapy for me! Thanks for posting!!

  2. Great post today! I can totally relate!

    1. I wanted to say, "Awesome that you can relate!" But, I wish none of us had to experience the "should've" phenomenon. So, instead I'll say, "Thanks for reading!" :)

  3. Oh shoulding on yourself, it's the worst. The therapist in me knows you are exactly where you SHOULD be, doing exactly what you SHOULD be doing. You're pretty amazing, thanks for take us all on your journey with you! My meals have been almost whole30 today, minus my breakfast being in pancake form and I used honey. But hey, baby steps!

    1. Thanks, girl! I feel like I'm doing exactly what I "should" be as well. It's amazing how much happier and more content I got when I realized that. :)

      And yay for (somewhat) trying out Whole30! As you know, I'm loving it!