Are Your Should’s and Supposed to’s Holding You Back?


Many of us are so often doing things in a state of reaction, or because of shame and we don’t realize we are. Shame and guilt pervade our days, that we don’t realize how much of our lives is dictated by other people’s beliefs and expectations.

Here are some personal examples from my life that you may relate to.

  • I should be 125 pounds. I should be lean, strong and have tight glutes. Most of us are unhappy with our bodies and feel shame about how we look.
  • I should be getting shit done! If I don’t get my to-do list done for the day I’m not being effective and focused. When you aren’t excelling and getting everything done it’s easy to blame ourselves, think we are lazy or lack focus.
  • I shouldn’t cry in public. Crying in the bathroom at work, I could feel the judgment as another women shared her opinion that I was emotional and weak for crying all the time. We judge ourselves and our resilience if we get triggered and don’t perfectly handle or manage our emotions right in the moment.
  • I should be more feminine, sexy, put together, and have makeup on when I go out. We believe that to be accepted and belong we have to look and be a certain way.
  • I should be extroverted, nice, and happy. We believe we have to put on a happy face and pretend like everything is ok, instead of sharing the suffering below the surface.
  • I’m supposed to own a house, drive a nice car, vacation abroad every year, wear nice clothes, go out on Friday and Saturday night with friends. We believe the American dream and all the rules of success, even if it’s not what we want.
  • I shouldn’t speak up and rock the boat. Everyone else is staying quiet and nodding their head. We are taught not to cause waves and keep peace with the group, even when we have a different opinion.

We allow shame, societal norms and fear to cause us to be silent, not take risks, and shrink back from taking the action we want. Slowly the should’s and supposed to’s rob us of our joy and life. It blinds us from knowing what we really want.

What would it be like if you could do what you want?

What would it be like if you did what you wanted?

How would you act if you only acted on your own knowing and inner authority? Free from fear and other people’s opinion. To say fuck you to should and supposed to? To say no and to finally say yes to you?

The problem is we get so mired in the should’s that we lose sight of our own intuition and knowing. The answers we arrive at often go against what’s logical and society or our families want so we doubt ourselves.

The only decision that matters

At the end of the day, it’s your life and you should do what you want to do. In my book success is living an authentic life you love. So the quest is to find what you love and go do that, be that. Only you can provide the validation and encouragement to live the life you want. Everyone is to busy thinking about themselves. You are there for you. Your opinion counts the most. So when a should comes tapping on your door. Kindly say thanks for sharing your opinion and get to the root of what you want.

Being with should

Should’s, guilt, shame and fear will arise. They are part of our lives and no matter how much we work on ourselves it’s fundamental to our being to live lives on purpose, connected to others and adding value. When you catch yourself saying should it’s not a problem. It’s consistently doing the should and buying into the shame and guilt that becomes the problem. It’s the shame that holds us back from doing what we want and sacrificing our happiness in the process.

Step 1: When a should crosses your path, whether you speak it or think it, just notice it. Notice how the should impacts you and your body. Be mindful of what comes up, observe, don’t judge.

Step 2: From this place of noticing, we can become curious and introduce wonder. Hmmm, I wonder why I should do this? What’s motivating me to do this? Get some space from the should to understand it’s motivation better.

Step 3: Once we notice the judgment or assumption behind the should we can decide if this is the right motivation for you. Is this ideal helpful? Where did it come from? Is this something I really want? Is this something that’s important to me, at this time? Try on not doing the thing you should do. Imagine yourself having the freedom to make a choice that you want.

Step 4: Give yourself permission to not do what you should do. What do you want? What would it be like to act without guilt, shame or fear as the motivator? You might just find you want to do the thing you should do. See what you would do differently.

[bctt tweet="Give yourself permission to not do what you should do. You might just find it's what you want to do."]

The only should is why

What’s most important is your why. It’s the intent behind your action. It’s what you want in the world and what you value. These are things that bring you happiness, joy and contentment. Taking actions toward living authentically and pursuing your why is real success. In my opinion it's the only should.



About the Author

Kim-Elisha Proctor is an Executive Coach, teacher, and writer. For over 15 years, she has worked with companies at all stages of growth and understands the complexity of organizations and leadership that is needed for success. Whether one-on-one coaching, with groups or delivering leadership development programs, her passion is the same: to support leaders to enhance their performance, impact, purpose & well-being to create communities they long to belong to.

Kim-ElishaAgency, Emotional Health