I should keep the house cleaner.

I should lose ten pounds.

I should speak more kindly to my kids.

I should be more.

I should be better.

I should be someone other than who I am.

Should. It has a heaviness to it, don’t you think? It seems innocent enough but has undertones of guilt. It always points out my shortcomings and implies I’m not who I should be. It blames me and says I’m not good enough. There are as many shoulds as moments in a day. My head is full of them. They make me feel tired–like I’ve already failed. I’m letting people down. I’m inadequate.

Should takes away my power and shames me. There is a right way to do things—and I’m not doing them that way. Should pretends to be on my side, but should is no friend to me. Should says it has my interests at heart and simply wants to motivate me, but should will never be satisfied. Should has already decided who I should be and how I should spend my time. And no matter how hard I try, should always wants more.

I want to eliminate should from my life. I want to speak words that encourage and lift up. I want to free up myself, family and friends from should. I want to replace should with kinder, gentler words.

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I should keep the house cleaner.
I could keep the house cleaner or I could choose not to worry about the dog hair and laundry today.

I should lose ten pounds.
I’d like to lose ten pounds but I am lovable and worthy just as I am.

I should speak more kindly to my kids.
I want to speak more kindly to my kids. I’m not getting enough alone time and I feel worn out. I will make rest a priority this week.

I should be better.
I am imperfect.

I should be more.
I am enough.

I should be someone other than who I am.
I am loveable just as I am.

Where did all these shoulds come from? They’re everywhere, woven into the fabric of our culture. We use should as a tool to criticize ourselves and others. We don’t intend to be harsh but should always murmurs its disapproval.

I am working to remove should from my vocabulary. I’m replacing it with words like need, want, can, am. Words carry power. I want my words to offer grace and allow imperfection. Words that celebrate who I am, who you are. Words that remind each of us we are precious and unique. I shouldn’t be anything other than who I am. I am enough, just as I am. You are enough, just as you are.

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From that safe place I can live with bravery and intention. You can too.

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