It’s a four-letter word in disguise, and I’m trying to remove it from my mental vocabulary. Its brother, shouldn’t, is also a culprit.

“I should take a walk.”

“I should do the dishes.”

“I should [be doing something other than what I’m doing right now.]”

When that annoying little voice in my head tells me whatever I’m doing isn’t good enough, it’s usually prefaced with a should or a shouldn’t. My therapist gets credit for noticing this pattern, but yesterday I decided to combat the shoulds with some cognitive redirection.

I’m going to reframe the situation when I encounter one of these words, taking a minute to think about what I need and/or want in that moment, rather than a knee-jerk reaction to my laundry list of obligations.

“I’ll feel energized if I take a walk.”

“I don’t feel like doing the dishes. They can wait.”

“Am I content right now?”

What I find most surprising is how much I have to correct myself during the course of a single day. The number of times I beat myself over the head with shoulds and shouldn’ts is kind of sad and astonishing — just think of all the mental energy I could save by not doing that.


  1. Was it me who wrote this? I actually realized yesterday how many “I should be doing [this] instead of [this]…” I’ve been saying lately. Out loud AND in my head. I like the redirection.

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