The One Blog Post You Should Read Today

I have a confession to make.

I begin by admitting that last week I told a friend of mine she should get a new accountant. I told another friend she should read a certain book during her vacation. And I told another he should quit a board he’s sat on for years.

Oh, and I just told you that you should read this blog post today.

I stated all of these beliefs with the best of intentions, of course. I truly believed they would be helpful.

The problem? I didn’t state my beliefs as opinions. I insinuated that they were facts. Facts that were absolutely, without a doubt, the right way to go.

I should-shamed these people. I should-shamed you (sorry about that).

So this post is a bit different in that we’re going a little personal on this (in a good way), but before we do…

…first, let me say that I’m pretty sure I’ve never met someone who hasn’t should-shamed – on others and themselves. I certainly haven’t met anyone who hasn’t been should-shamed.

We all know what it looks like when someone shoulds on us, right? Even when they mean well?

Shoulding on people puts them in a terrible position. Should suggests a judgmental belief about a right and wrong way to do something. And, since we all want to do things the right way (and avoid offending people), those who are shoulded feel compelled to do the should – whether or not it’s right for them.

Let’s face it…should-shaming is everywhere. It starts almost out of the womb.

Often with the best of intentions, our families, friends, teachers, the media – you name it – should on us throughout our lives. And these shoulds – some small and some HUGE – are stated as absolute facts, driving us to make certain choices.

Some examples of the ways we are shoulded-on?

  • How we should look
  • What we should weigh
  • How we should speak
  • How we should behave/act
  • What careers we should pursue
  • How we should spend/save/invest our money
  • Where we should live
  • What we should eat/drink
  • Which Netflix specials/YouTube videos we should watch
  • Which pets we should get
  • How we should birth, name, raise, feed and talk to our babies (we REALLY like to should about babies!)

The list goes on and on…again, often stated with the best of intentions by people we trust. They are also stated as facts, not opinions, which is what they really are.

And, because we don’t necessarily hear another side, and because we trust the folks behind them (and don’t want to disappoint them), we accept those shoulds as facts. And then we follow them, even if they don’t work for us. Even if they make us miserable.

Which is the problem.

Now, let’s get to the solution.

Remember that part about getting a little personal? It’s time.

It’s time for your very own should inventory.

Please answer the following, and give them a bit of thought as you do:

  • In my childhood years, the shoulds I learned about how to look/act/be were:
  • In my teens and 20s, the shoulds I learned about how to look/act/be, as well as things like education, careers, marriage and family were:
  • Since then, the shoulds I’ve learned about how to look/act/be, as well as things like parenting, vacations, investing my money and hobbies/sports were:

Now…of the shoulds above…

  • Which are you following these days, perhaps while not even thinking about them? Which drive your choices?
  • Which of the ones that you are following don’t actually work well for you? Which ones don’t work for you at all?
  • Now, knowing that shoulds are not facts, which means you’re still a good person if you don’t follow them, what new/different/other opinions might replace the shoulds that don’t work for you…so that you can live a better/happier/more authentic life?

I know this isn’t necessarily easy stuff. It can be scary. After all, you may have firmly linked yourself to a should your whole life. Or you may worry about offending someone if you change a should.

But that’s okay. Fear is a natural result of considering a change, even when that change will be better for you. Fear doesn’t mean you’re powerless. You can work through it…using the true friends who will respect you no matter which should you choose to follow.

How? First, embrace that a should is not a fact. Knowing this, identify the shoulds that don’t work for you (or don’t work anymore) and work on replacing them as best you can. Be kind to yourself in the process. Pay attention to when you should on yourself, too.

And when you find yourself about to should on someone else, replace the word with phrases like “You may want to consider…” or “An option might be…”

I’ll be right there with you as I work on going easier on my friends…and, of course, you. No should-shaming here.

Sorry again about that.

PS – This is the last post before we close registration for our upcoming Sparkplug Project “Mental Bootcamp”! If today’s post was helpful, then our weekend in the mountains to figure out how to make your professional/personal life even better may be just your thing! It’s for anyone, from anywhere, who’s ready to get unstuck and/or more satisfied. Details are here: Sparkplug Project Mental Bootcamp


14 responses to “The One Blog Post You Should Read Today”

  1. Jim Tenuto Avatar
    Jim Tenuto

    One of my goals in life has been to live free from the “tyranny of the shoulds”, those expectations from others attempting to exert, oftentimes unwanted, suggestions of how you should live your life. And that’s the part of the “shoulds” that those delivering the message don’t quite grasp, their opinions/guidance is usually not asked for nor helpful.

    Great post! Glad you “should all over me” to read it.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      Thanks Jim…I think you nailed a really important point. Just because those of us who should THINK our advice is brilliant, if it’s not asked for or welcome it’s really just nagging. Appreciate the comment!

  2. Robyn Avatar

    Oh, I “should shame” people way too easily – especially my family. Thank you for the reality check! Very funny and helpful as always. Great post.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      Thanks, Robyn – and kudos to you for admitting the should-shaming. That’s more than a lot of people are willing to do! 🙂

  3. Doug Hegebarth Avatar
    Doug Hegebarth

    I should be working on my novel, I tell myself. But Deirdre said I should be reading her blog post today, so I did. The procrastination blog I read tells me I should not allow distractions to interrupt concentration during critical activities, writing being one of those. Though the writers blog I read suggests, in a somewhat forceful way, I should read promiscuously to widen my world knowledge and heighten my sense of style, I guess this includes blogs. So, do I interrupt my writing to read a blog created to make me aware of forces known and unknown to me affecting how I approach and lead my life? Should I?

    Thanks Deirdre – yet another great post!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      Yes you should. Just kidding. Sort of. 🙂 Thanks Doug!!

  4. David Fremland Avatar
    David Fremland

    Well it turns out I’m excellent at repelling should shaming coming to me from others but I’m less adept at keeping my you shoulds to myself…and My I shoulds…well… I have a lot of adjustments to review.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      Oh man, so many of us are so GOOD at those “I shoulds”. Good on you for reviewing and adjusting…tricky stuff.

      1. David Fremland Avatar
        David Fremland

        Well I caught myself telling a friend they should go to the new library to check it out…then I remembered…just the facts and my opinion… I stopped myself and instead said…The new library is beautiful, I enjoyed it there. And that way she could decide if she wanted to see it or not. …thanks, your method was effective.

        1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

          That is just awesome to hear – so great that you’re taking it to heart! THANK you!

  5. Patricia Costa Avatar
    Patricia Costa

    Great post Deirdre! I grew up with a lot of guilt (not necessarily earned) so I really respect your blog. I have learned to say “perhaps you can do .…..” . I don’t want someone to should on me either!!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      I don’t blame you, Patty…nobody SHOULD be shoulded on! 🙂 Thanks for your great comment!

  6. Kerry Temple-Wood Avatar

    Yep! Lived it experienced it and unfortunately just it out way too much in the past. But there’s always this moment, the next breath, and an opportunity 2 shaft moving forward. Thanks for another great post.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      Thank YOU for giving this a read – and so true! There’s always the opportunity to stop and breath 🙂