Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself!

In a previous post I discussed unhelpful thinking styles.  Unhelpful thinking styles are common thinking ‘errors’ that we all utilize at some point or other.  They can become patterns we don’t even realize we are using them!  As with many things in life, as we get older we can get stuck in patterns and not know how to get out of them.  Unhelpful thinking styles are one such pattern.  One very common Unhelpful thinking style that I see a lot with people, but especially women in their late twenties to mid-thirties is “Shoulding” and “Musting”.  As the name indicates, this occurs when we tell ourselves that we should do something or we must do something.  It may seem as though Shoulding and Musting would be helpful.  For instance, someone with a drinking problem tells themselves ‘I must not drink and drive home tonight’.  However, I see it more commonly in the everyday lives of women whose life does not match up to the expectations she set for herself.  For example, perhaps she thought that she would be married by 27 or have the been promoted to high level position in her company by 30.  When these life goals don’t occur in the arbitrary time frame that she set for herself, there can be a lot of self doubt and judgment that comes with that.  If she is still single at 28, then she thinks there is something wrong with her and she will tell herself that she ‘should’ or  ‘must’ change who she is to get what she wants.  If the promotion doesn’t come, then she tells herself that she ‘should have worked harder’ and ‘must stay later at the office’.  In reality, there are a million factors that affect the course of our lives and self blame and doubt won’t make any difference except to make us feel worse about ourselves.  When we’re young, we think we know how life will pan out.  We look around ourselves and think “I’ll definitely be married by the ripe old age of 26!” despite having no idea what course our lives will take or allowing for our goals and desires to change.  When things don’t go according to plan, or life isn’t what you thought it might be by now, of course a healthy dose of self reflection can be useful.  However, when we get the pattern of constantly telling ourselves that we should or must do things all the times, that is no longer helpful thinking.  As my high school math teacher used to say to me: Stop shoulding all over yourself!