Silence the shoulds


I should get up and do something…

I should drink more water, eat less chocolate and exercise more…

I should be coping with this better…

Says who?

Who is telling you that you should do all these things?

Usually it’s that niggling voice in the back of your head that has grown out of family or cultural expectations. That one that says you’re not doing things right, that you could be better, that you’re to blame for everything you’re not achieving or are responsible for whatever is going wrong.

It pushes you down and pressures you into feeling like you’re not doing enough or not meeting expectations. You always feel disappointed in yourself, overwhelmed by what needs doing and paralysed by the fear of what to do next.

Did you know we have over 60,000 thoughts a day? Yet, we are much more likely to listen to the negative ones. This is because of cognitive distortions, habitual thought patterns that shape and distort the way we see the world.

So, whether that voice is talking to you about the little things like how you should really be cleaning the kitchen, or worrying you with the bigger thoughts like how you should have dealt with your medical condition differently, you don’t need to listen to it.

But what can you do instead?

There are two useful statements you can silence the shoulds with:

“I NEED to do it”


“I WANT to do it”

If you don’t need to do something or don’t want to do it, then there is no reason why it has to get done. There is no ‘should’. You need to or want to. That’s it.

This small realisation can make a massive difference to your thought processes.

Ask yourself: Do I need to do this?

If the answer is yes then you can make a plan. If it is a big need (e.g. you need to have a clearer action plan for handling a medical condition) then try to break it down in to smaller manageable steps so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.

If you don’t need to do it, ask: Do I want to do it?

If you want to eat that last chocolate and there is no harm that is going to come from it, do it. If it’s something bigger – you want to book a holiday, change jobs or start a new hobby – then you can start setting out what you need to do to make it happen.

Letting go of the belief that you should or shouldn’t do things is very freeing and helps you start challenging your automatic thoughts.

So, the next time you start worrying about what you should be doing, stop yourself and ask: Says who?

For more support on navigating the mental health impacts of managing a chronic physical health condition, download Smile App for free now on Google Play Store or Apple App Store.