Treat yourself with Kindness, Compassion, and Forgiveness by: Leah Neff, LICSW

Jun 18, 2015 by Leah Neff, LICSW

I challenge you to stop “shoulding” on yourself. I say this so much in so many of my therapy sessions that most of my patients have made it a running joke to see who can be the first to point out when someone is “shoulding” on themselves. Think about it for a minute… How many times per day do we say “I really should get up and do something… I should do the dishes… I should wash the car… I should take the kids to hockey practice… I should try to get to bed at a decent hour…” The list could go on for miles. Unfortunately, most of us don’t stop to think about how much pressure the word “should” puts on us. We think we are motivating ourselves when we say we “should” do something, but really, I think we are mostly just judging ourselves for what we have not yet accomplished. This constant badgering of ourselves does not really do much for our motivation or being compassionate to ourselves, especially when we are struggling with mental illness or trying to support a loved one who is struggling.

Instead of “shoulding” on yourself (or someone else for that matter) try a more compassionate approach and see what it does for your mood or motivation. Think of things you want to do, what do you need to do, and what would be healthy for you to do. Thinking of our obligations, activities, and to-dos as wants, needs, and what would be healthy can not only help us prioritize our days, but can help us be more gentle with ourselves in the process. Phrasing it as a want, need, or something healthy to do helps us meet ourselves where we at on a particular day. It’s okay if the dishes get missed one day because a family walk with the dog on a beautiful spring day feels like it would be more beneficial. Or on the flip side, if the dishes have not been done in a week, it is a much more motivating goal to think “I WANT to get these dishes done!” and to feel that sense of pride when the sink is empty. So stop shoulding on yourself and try taking a more gentle approach. It might sound like a small step, but no one has ever climbed a mountain in a single leap.

Leah is a therapist at PrairieCare Edina, in the Adult Intensive Outpatient Program.

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