This post comes to you via Michael Rabin, a life coach I follow on Facebook. I've been thinking a lot about the "shoulds" (and "shouldn'ts") that I hear from myself and others. Thanks, Michael, for helping us make sense of this through your insightful writing.
"German psychoanalyst Karen Horney had a phrase for this: “the tyranny of the should.” She viewed shoulds as dividing our personalities into two selves: an ideal self and a real self. When we don’t live up to the ideal self, we are split and our inner critic comes out.
We put ourselves down when we fail to live up to our shoulds, and we get angry with others when they don’t live up to our shoulds. When we place unfulfilled shoulds on our job and workplace, we end up unhappy at work as well.
A should represents a sort of bargain with ourselves and with the world. If I behave in a certain way then things will work out well. And if you (the workplace) do what you should do, then life will go more smoothly. Until, of course, it doesn’t. Because the bargain isn’t necessarily based on reality or the truth, certainly not your personal truth. The bargain is likely based on something someone told you or a form of magical thinking you created to feel better in a situation.
Shoulds are not always a bad thing, particularly when they compel us to behave in a kinder manner. Fulfilling a should through volunteering or donating to a cause, can help us feel good about ourselves. But when your shoulds are the source of unhappiness, guilt, frustration, etc., it’s time to examine them and create a new way of life."