Saturday, January 3, 2009


Should—it seems like an innocent enough word. ‘I should go to the market’, or ‘You should straighten up your room before your friends come by’. But beneath the benign commonality of the word, lies a most dangerous auxiliary verb. ‘I should have done more to help’, or ‘I should lose weight’.

Should amounts to an expectation, but also a failure of sorts. As if an act or feeling needs to be carried out, but you just haven’t the gumption to do it. Instead you rack yourself (or others) with guilt about the failed act or emotion.

Should is an insidious toxin that seems to affect more of my women friends than my men folk. It seeps innocently enough into our conversations or through our inner-voices, but over years of unnoticed use can wreak havoc on our psyches. ‘I should volunteer more at my daughter’s school’... 'I shouldn’t eat that piece of cake’... ‘I shouldn’t have let that comment get to me so’.

Chip... chip... chip... Shoulds chip away at our confidence reserves and renders us unsure of our own motives.

I sincerely hate the word ‘should’ and try very hard not to use it. Here’s my method to combat the ‘shoulds’ in life: I to try and do my best; if I have, then I am happy with that effort and let the results fall as they may. If I have not done my best, I face that, own up to it, possibly learn from it and try to get on with life.

I shouldn’t ‘do’ anything—I either do it, or I don’t.

Of course, this is a work in progress. I occassionally fall down the slippery slope of 'shoulds', but I attempt and regain footing as soon as I realize it, and cut myself some slack.

In this new year, try and catch yourself when using the word ‘should’. How often do you say it to yourself? How often do you say it to others; to your children, or sweetheart?

Prick up your ears and watch out for that awful word. Let’s make ‘should’ a worthless sentiment of the past.


Castallare said...

It's like my therapist says (by way of Stuart Smalley)

"Don't 'should' all over yourself."

Thanks for sharing this today. These ideas are things that I know, but often have trouble practicing.

Sharon said...

Hi Jenn,

You said it very well. My version of the same thought is this. I used to say, "I should weed the garden." Now when I walk by the weeds I realize I made a choice. I chose to spend my time doing things more important like taking the boys to the nature center or spending time with friends. After all, there is only a finite amount of time and we have the ability to choose how we spend it. The most important things get done, and the rest make us look fallible to the neighbors. Happy New Year!


Carol said...

Hmm..excellent thought. I haven't thought of it like that. It is such a commonplace term that we use all the time.

I will definitely be mindful of whether or not I use that word.

Thanks Jenny!