Should I, really?

Lindsay Recknell Mental Health Leave a Comment

I was up ridiculously early this morning.

Like more ridiculously early than regular.

Those of you who regularly read my posts know how hard it is for me to get feet to floor but this morning, pretty easy. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed these past few weeks – lots on the go – which overall, I love, but when I get down to the minutiae of it, it gets overwhelming. Using that overwhelm for good, I got up around 430am and got down to business.

And then I got stuck.

Writers block.

I keep hearing about Morning Pages, a concept popularized by Julia Cameron. Her theory is that a person just sits down to write, by hand, on paper, and just let stream of consciousness flow. ” Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow”. My friend Diane has also mentioned morning pages to me so I thought I’d try it.

And it worked! Stream of consciousness flowing smoothly!

This morning, Morning Pages brought to mind the concept of “should”, and “need to”, and “have to”. All those words that bring to mind feelings of obligation and pressure and duty. The overall feeling that I’m not good enough because I’m not doing whatever it is I think I should be doing. That by not doing that “thing”, whatever that thing is, I’m reinforcing the negative instead of empowering myself by focusing on the things I am doing.

I started to investigate (of course 🙂 ) which led to me to research how my brain is behaving when I’m thinking this way and how those thoughts are affecting me psychologically. Dr. Shad Helmstetter explains in his book What to Say When You Talk to Yourself, when we tell ourselves that we “should” be doing something, we’re implicitly reinforcing the idea that we’re not doing it. There’s also a stream of thought that suggests that the feelings that come along with this kind of language are feelings of obligation based on other people’s expectations of us, not rooted in our own expectations of ourselves.

Instead, an option is to re-frame my self-talk towards why I want to do the thing I’m currently guilting myself into doing out of obligation. Connecting to the benefits of doing the “thing”, makes it feel less like obligation and more like something I actually want to be doing because it’s important to me and I’m something I’m choosing to prioritize.

Makes the “should” into “want to” because it’s good for me, connects to my values or some other positive, personal choice-based reason…and I’m all about personal choice.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

Negative: “I should be drinking less coffee.”

Positive: “If I alternate my two cups of coffee for the day with a glass of water between cups, I’ll stay hydrated while also still experiencing the warm hug of delicious, life-giving coffee.”


Negative: “I need to read more blogs and articles.”

Positive: “I want to spend more time reading blogs and articles to keep my brain engaged with what’s new.”

Once I started to notice how often I used these kinds of words to assert judgment or pressure on myself and others, it’s amazing how normalized it is within my speech. Not to say that I’m living a completely should-free life now that I’m mindful of it, by any means, but I’m trying to make an effort to replace negative language with self-affirming language, both towards myself and others.

If you catch me saying that you or I should be doing something or need to do something else, mention it, please 🙂

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