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6 Ways to Stop “Shoulding” on Yourself

What we say to ourselves (and others) matters.   

Many of us have a laundry list of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” playing on repeat like a broken record in our minds. Often the “shoulds” become so second nature to us that we don’t even notice them anymore. It’s easy to mistake these harmful narratives as our internal dialogue instead of calling it what it really is: shame.  

Shame may sound different to each of us, but it is something we all experience. Sometimes it tells us that we’re not enough or that we’re too much. It tells us that we should be married by now, or be skinnier, or have a better job. It tells us we shouldn’t hope, expect good things, or ask for help. It teaches us to cover up, hide, isolate, and withdraw. It tells us that we’re no good and are not worthy of love and belonging.  

The “shoulds of shame” have a way of rearing their ugly heads and telling us lies in every corner of our lives—from our work life to our view of self to our relationships.  

But here’s the thing: shame doesn’t have to have the final word, but it doesn’t have to be ignored either. No matter how loud your shame may feel, when you get curious about what it’s trying to tell you, instead of ignoring it, you can rewrite the harmful narratives that hold you back and start to live an authentic life—one steeped in self-awareness and self-compassion.  

Below, you’ll find a few examples of what the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” of shame can sound like, and a few helpful “reframes” to help you change your narrative.

What “Should” Shame Sounds Like:   

  • I shouldn’t ask for what I need. 
  • I should be a better friend/mom/partner/daughter
  • I shouldn’t ask for time off. 
  • I should be able to handle more.   
  • I shouldn’t be this tired.   
  • I should be married/have kids/be in a different stage of life. 

Reframes to Embrace Self-Compassion: 

  • I am allowed to have needs.   
  • I am the best friend/parent/partner/daughter I can be today, and am committed to growing.   
  • I am entitled to my time off. Rest helps me show up to do my best work.   
  • I am not weak. I am not defined by what I can produce.   
  • I am allowed to rest when my body needs it.   
  • I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.   
  • Let’s change the narrative. Next time you feel a “should” or “shouldn’t” creeping in, try extending yourself some compassion instead. 

If you’re ready to move from shame to empowerment, Onsite’s newest emotional health master class, The Shame Reframe, will help you eliminate the shoulds and shouldn’ts that are holding you back from living the life you deserve.