The Word ‘Should’ And My Problem With Self-Help


The thing about self-help is that even though it is labeled as ‘self-improvement’ and ‘getting better’, it is possible to trick yourself into thinking you are not good enough, as is. Which of course is a lie. You are great.

My Therapist – Diana – told me I should try not to use the word ‘should’ too often. I guess I never realized how often I used the word and more importantly, the impact that those statements were having on my life. 

I go to therapy to get over my Anxiety. I am a worrier. A useless gene that ancient Human’s needed when they were regularly being chased by Saber-Toothed Tigers. I’ve never been chased by a Saber-Toothed Tiger. The most dangerous thing I do is drive. No need to worry much about that.

Beyond Anxiety, I am also working to be more present and live in the moment. This is where ‘should’ gets to be a problem.

“You SHOULD work standing up. Otherwise, you will die.” 

“You SHOULD wake up without hitting snooze… or you will die.”

“You SHOULD put pants on before you leave the house.” 

Like, c’mon, get off my shit already. I’m good.

There is too much ‘knowledge’ out there that can be accessed with a quick swipe and a couple clicks. Information-overload is a problem for me. Anytime I hear something new that I’m not currently doing, I think what I do is wrong or not good enough. I think I need to change immediately. 

Just because someone is drinking Green Tea with Athletic Greens and Himalayan Sea-Salt for breakfast, doesn’t mean my fruit and spinach smoothie isn’t good enough. Yet, it makes me think I am hurting myself by not doing it. And that stresses me out. It’s not a good way to live. 

Here’s the thing though: I do like reading self-help books here and there and I love listening to Podcasts and reading blogs. I do it all the time. Tim Ferriss is my favorite. A lot to be learned from him. But you can’t do everything.

I think it’s important to look at everything as just another tool to put in your tool box. Take what you can apply to yourself and don’t worry about the rest. Also, and most importantly, you are most-likely doing just fine. You are a living, breathing Human. That, in itself, is fucking amazing. 

This was a real scenario that went through my head last night (Tuesday): I wanted a beer. But I knew that I might have a beer the next night (Wednesday). I also knew I would want one the night after that (Thursday beers fo sho). Then on Friday and Saturday too (because the weekend). Plus, I’m going to a play Downtown on Sunday where I will most likely take a drink. 

So, in my cray-cray mind, one beer turned into six days in a row and in turn, would make me an alcoholic. I’m nowhere near an alcoholic. This is just an example of the rabbit hole I fall down when I am in an anxious mood. I’m not sure how my wife deals with me. 

Oftentimes I find myself in a mode where I am just trying to do too much. Read 10% of my book every day, go for a long walk, workout, meditate, etc. It just ends up stressing me out even more. 

I need to learn to just go with the flow.

Worse, the word ‘should’ often leads to statements of regret. Observe:

“I SHOULD have traveled instead of working for that start-up after college.” 

“I SHOULD have stayed single in college instead of wasting three years with my ex.” 

“I SHOULD have put pants on before I left the house.” 

All valid. But they say hindsight is 20/20 for a reason. You can’t dwell on the past. You already knew that though, right? See, you don’t need me or this post to figure that out. You are doing just fine. I am too. 

This journal and this post are for me. To remind myself to be aware of what I say and how I feel. And to help me live in the now and be happy with who I am and how far I have come. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Dad. Lifter. Sales Professional. Writer. Reader. Learner.

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