You Do You: Why saying “I should” is holding you back

Do you regularly tell yourself that you SHOULD be doing something differently, doing more of something, or doing better? I wonder, is that a form of judging yourself? Like, are you actually just comparing yourself to others when you say “I should”? 

I noticed myself saying “I should” recently, like actually noticed (paid attention). And I began questioning whether saying “I should” is motivating or really just self criticism. And, me being the second-guessing-myself type, I countered those thoughts with, “well it’s not necessarily motivating, but it is me wanting to improve myself. And, I can always improve.”

But after thinking some more and doing delving into the topic, I now know that there is truly a better way to look at yourself and your actions that doesn’t involve saying, “I should.” And, this way of thinking will give you peace of mind plus help you live with ease. Ahhhh – what more could we want, right? 

So, can we just stop saying “I should.” Hear me out.

Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.



The other day, I was thinking, I should be more active and get out there in the world to help people. This has been a recurring thought of mine over the years. By nature, I want to help people. And, I’ve always thought, I should be doing this or that (like someone else); regularly telling myself that I’m just not doing enough. 

And, then something hit me –  MAYYYYBEEE I have been trying to force myself to be something that I am not. I look at people who are out there organizing events, volunteering in the community, and taking all this “visible” action. I am in awe of their work. And I think, “I should be doing that too.”

But, what if that’s not me? I’m not super outgoing (extroverted) and I’m often uncomfortable in large groups. I have my own strengths and talents that I actually do share with the world, which are helping people, in my own way. Like, through this blog, for instance.

And, maybe – just maybe – other people are in awe of MY contributions. Radical thought, huh? HAHA! (Probably a good time to check out this post on how to stop downplaying your achievements.)

why you need to stop saying I should

Things that I often tell myself I SHOULD be or be doing:

  • Be more politically active.
  • Be more involved in the community.
  • Volunteer to help others who are less fortunate.
  • Be more social (go out with friends).
  • Get more exercise, do more outdoor stuff.

Just because I admire other people’s efforts doesn’t mean that I SHOULD be doing the same thing. I’m not comfortable in unfamiliar groups. Being social too much of the time is exhausting to me. And, I’m not an athlete (I hate sweating). 

Simply put – others can do themselves. I will do me. And, you do you! We all have our parts; our own roles to play in this life.


1. Am I just comparing myself to others

Saying you “should” is like saying things aren’t good enough as they are or that YOU aren’t good enough as you are. It’s like putting pressure on yourself to be different; telling yourself that who you are isn’t good enough. And, that’s just sad, to me.

Because, each of us is unique and our own individuality is what makes us special and important in our own way. We look at others and want to emulate the things we think are amazing. The things we think are amazing, a lot of the time, are what society tells us to think. 

For example, society says we should be fit (meaning thin/skinny…oh, and healthy) so I tell myself, I should be eating less or exercising more. Oh, and I should become a runner! And then I critique myself more by asking, “Why can’t I get motivated to do these things?” (I wrote about what society “tells us to do” in the post, Break the Rules and Wear What You Want.)

When you stop saying, “I should,” you will notice that you aren’t comparing yourself with others as often.  

saying I should is like comparing yourself with others

2. Is this something I WANT to improve about myself? Or is this just something that I believe is expected of me?

Sometimes it’s more than society telling us what to think. A lot of times, the people in our lives expect us to be different. Sometimes those people have the expectations because they care about us and just want the best for us. 

But, there are times when others’ expectations of us are more about them and not exactly for our benefit. In these cases, telling ourselves we should be doing something differently is FOR them; it’s not something that we actually WANT for ourselves.

Maybe, you DO want to make changes. Obviously, there are always opportunities for growth and self development. 

But remember, as author Paige Oldham says, “no matter how successful you are, something in your life will always look wrong to you. If you allow it to distract you, you can spend your entire life chasing little, nit-picky problems, and you’ll never get to the big, hairy monstrosities that really deserve your attention.”

When you stop saying “I should,” it doesn’t mean that you remain status quo forever. It just means that you are consciously noticing whether or not you actually WANT to do something differently or if you just believe that you are expected to. 

saying I should is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole

3. Am I trying to force myself to be someone I’m not?

Have you heard of the Tao? Learning about the Tao is actually what helped me to reframe my thoughts about what I “should be” doing or being. (NOTE: I’m not here to promote any certain religion, but some philosophical frameworks that really just make sense.)

So while I was getting all curious about my “I should” statements, I came across a vlog. (I’ve put the link at the end of this post.) The email subject line caught my attention, for some reason, so I clicked over to watch. 

I had subscribed to the blog a while ago, but hadn’t really been following. Well, let me just say, there was a reason I subscribed in the first place! 

I watched the blog author, Kathy, and her husband explain the Tao, which I of course had heard of, but hadn’t known anything about previously. What stood out to me the most was that you don’t want to try to fit into a square hole if you are naturally round, and vice versa. When you force yourself to fit, it is going against your nature…your authentic self. 

BAM – that confirmed my thoughts about whether I was trying to force myself to be something I’m not. 

Going back to the example of me telling myself I should become a runner. First, I’m NOT athletic, I don’t enjoy sweating, and it’s just not me – round peg/square hole. 

I do things to keep myself fairly fit, and those things include yoga and pilates at home – round peg/round hole. 

If you are constantly “shoulding” yourself, consider whether what you think you SHOULD be doing is actually in line with WHO you are. Or are you trying to squeeze yourself into a box that doesn’t fit you?

The Tao is about going with the flow and not struggling against it. Whatever is happening doesn’t have to be a struggle, it can just be an experience. Another WOW!

When you say, “I should,” is what you’re saying you want to change actually going against the natural flow of things? Are you just resisting what is and who you are? 

And thereby underestimating your own personal talents and strengths?

I’ve been focusing on going with the flow of life (including not resisting what is) for a while now. And I’ve found that going with the flow:

  • Makes making changes easier.
  • Helps you to live with ease.
  • Results in less struggling.
  • Makes it easier to stick with something (be consistent).
  • Leads to less rushing.
  • Improves your health and well-being.
  • Allows for better results, because of all of the above.
Instead of saying I should, flow with life and what your strengths are


I am 100% committed to going with the flow of life, because I am SO much happier when I’m not resisting. And, I’m actually in less physical pain. Resisting causes tension in the body and that just creates a bunch of health issues. We certainly don’t need more health issues at this point in life!

During midlife, it’s important for us to take care of ourselves if we want to continue to be able to do things we enjoy, stay healthy, be active, and take on new pursuits.

Intentionally committing to going with the flow of life (stopping yourself from saying, “I should”) can really help. 

And, you know I only promote things that are simple to put into practice! I had avoided things for many years because I thought it would be too hard, take too much effort, or just not work for me. I’m here to tell you firsthand that this is EASY and IT WORKS! 

Give it a try and let me know what you think. 

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Shoot me an email if you’d rather connect that way. I’d LOVE to hear from you!

Watch the video about the Tao here:
From SMART Living 365 ~ 

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Michele

    good food for thought. thank you!

  2. Lauren

    Hi Lisa! “I should” has forever been the bane of my existence! It really creates a sense of never being enough, doesn’t it? I really like the tips you’ve given here, especially the idea of not trying to fit into the wrong peg hole, so to speak. Now that I’ve hit midlife, I’m trying to accept my own “peg shape” and go with the flow more, but it’s going to take a lot of practice after a lifetime of doing otherwise.

    1. Lisa

      Hi Lauren! We do seem to figure things out better when we get to this age, right!? I agree with you that it takes practice. And for me, consistency is HUGE! Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! : )

  3. Heidi

    I really like the points you gave to help evaluate our “should” mentality. Thank you!

  4. Michele Linton

    What a great post! I’m a victim of the shoulds! It’s so important to stay true to ourselves and just be.

  5. Hi Lisa! I think it is so important for all of us to be reminded of how we fall into the “shoulda, coulda, woulda trap” on a regular basis. And the points you make about how we often compare ourselves to others, try to live up to other people’s expectations or try become someone we’re not are all spot on. I’m also glad you found my SMART Living Vlog helpful to your thoughts. Aren’t we bloggers fortunate to have each other to remind us! Thanks again! ~Kathy

    1. Lisa

      We ARE THE MOST fortunate, Kathy! Thank YOU for showing up to read the post!

  6. Sophie

    Hi Lisa! Came across this post as I was wondering today why it’s so difficult to do the things I keep telling myself ‘I should’ do. Some of the points you mentioned came across my mind before, but I couldn’t quite put it to words. Really appreciate how it’s all laid out and articulated in your post! Great Insight and tips I think I can try apply!

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