Saturday, April 6, 2013

Don't "Should" On Yourself!

I'm on a mission to banish the word "should" from our vocabulary.  The word makes people feel bad about themselves and promotes shame, guilt and other difficult emotions.

Here's why:

Definition of "Should": To express obligation or duty; also used to express expectation, conditionality.

The way we speak to ourselves can directly influence the way we feel, which in turn can impact behavior. If you feel terrible about yourself, you might turn to (or from) food to comfort, soothe, or distract from the intolerable feeling.

When you relate to yourself in a kinder way, you will feel better and therefore need to turn to disordered eating as a way of coping.

How many times have you told yourself:

I should not do that.
I should not have eaten that.
I shouldn’t eat that.
I shouldn’t want that.
I should be better at this.
I should get a better job.
I should have a boyfriend/girlfriend.

Even if you say, “I should be happy” it implies that you’re not as happy as you could be.

Often we speak to ourselves in second person, as if someone else is talking to us:

You shouldn't have said that.
You shouldn’t have eaten that.
You shouldn’t have done that.
You shouldn’t want that..
You should do better.
Whose voice does that sound like? Is it familiar?

The word “should” can cause us to direct anxiety, sadness, anger, and distress towards ourselves.Those feelings may be so powerful that we use disordered eating to cope.

Instead of “I/you should not do that” ask yourself: 

What do I want? What am I feeling? What’s going on with me right now?

Be interested in your thoughts/emotions rather than judgmental.

When you're self-critical, you feel bad.  When you respond to yourself with kindness and interest, when you soothe yourself with words, you're less likely to turn to or from food in order to comfort, numb or distract yourself from what's going on inside.

Graphic by Talia Ellis,


Anonymous said...

I will remember these words. I recently started a food diary. I will put these words in there to remind me daily to think of what it it that triggers me to eat. Thank you. :)

Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin, Psy.D. said...

You're welcome! Lots of people think they're triggered by "food" but usually it's some situation, thought, or conflict that's the trigger. Stay curious, not critical :)