I should lose weight. I should eat better. I should exercise. He or she should do that. Sound familiar? We use the word should quite a bit. Should is an off-limits word in my office because it is dangerous. When we use the word should, we create an expectation. This is mostly unconscious. We usually create expectations for ourselves out of a sense of obligation which really sets us up to feel like a failure and continue the cycle of self-sabotage. I should exercise and because I choose not to, I am a lazy slob.
I think on some level, this misguided thinking is meant to motivate ourselves. Really motivating right? We use this logic with other people as well. My spouse should be better with money. We create an expectation for the other person and feel angry and resentful when they don’t follow through. This really sets us up for disappointment in our relationships and when we are trying to accomplish goals around weight loss. This is especially dangerous when we don’t communicate our expectations or do so in an aggressive manner. That will definitely help them to meet our expectations! So, what do we do about this? Stop shoulding on yourself and others. Instead, change the language you use.
Instead of saying you should eat more healthfully, identify what eating a healthy and balanced diet would do for you. Explore how your life would be different if you made changes. Then make changes because you want to, not because you feel obligated. The difference can be very empowering and you would be surprised how much easier it will make for goals like weight loss. When it comes to others, instead of saying your spouse should do something, identify how you could effectively communicate what you would like them to do, but recognize that they may not be able to meet your expectations. These simple shifts really take off a lot of pressure. When we create these expectations, we really set ourselves up for disappointment. In essence, we do this to ourselves which can create a tremendous amount of emotional distress. By letting go of the expectations, it doesn’t mean that we cannot strive to change lifestyle behaviors and it doesn’t mean that we can’t get what we need from other people, but it can reduce self-loathing and conflict. When we remove that as a barrier, we are able to accomplish our goals like weight loss, healthy eating and physical activity.