Stop Shoulding

I would like to remove “should” from our vocabulary. There are so many better ways to make a point, suggest improvement, make an observation than “should.”

Whenever “should” appears in a conversation, my guard tends to go up. Not all the time and not with everyone- but with many people, and always with specific people.

“Should” falls so easily into shaming (you should do that, because whatever you are doing isn’t good enough). “Should” implies there is more to do, that the reasoning behind whatever is being done is lacking somehow, or that the person who is using the word knows better.

People think if they say it with a laugh, or playfully offer it is advice or encouragement, it makes it okay. I don’t think it does.

Truth is, I am guilty of it too, though my “shoulds” are very consciously not directed at others. They are directed at myself. You know, usually in some form of negative self-talk. “You should lose weight.” “You should do that differently.” ” You should stop this. You should start that.”

This morning I tried on bathing suits for an upcoming trip. I walked in expecting to “should” again and again. “You should lose weight. You shouldn’t have put on those pounds after losing them, how could you have let that happen….”.

But you know what? I didn’t. I didn’t try to avoid it, I just really looked at myself.

I realized I have the body I have earned.

A body which has carried two children. A body which has danced and moved with many motivations- sometimes in performance, in healing, in repetition, in connection. A body that has expanded and contracted in size, shape, line, and time- not to mention courage, patience, acceptance, grief, peace, and humor.

Just as my sense of purpose, clarity of direction,  professional and personal goals have morphed through time- my body has and will continue to do so.

So, what if I chase what feels good and follow that instead of allowing “shoulds” to dictate my actions.

What if we treated people with the same courtesy- the compliment of interacting with them wherever they are and not where they are not.

What if we released the responsibility of telling people what ought to happen and invite them to wonder what could happen next.

Do we have the courage to practice this ourselves? I am trying.


Author: Heather Vaughan-Southard

HEATHER VAUGHAN-SOUTHARD is a connector. She uses somatic engagement and creativity to inspire change in people, perspectives, and practices within classrooms, therapy rooms, and boardrooms. She is a presenter in the fields of education, social-emotional learning, somatic practice, and the arts.

One thought on “Stop Shoulding”

  1. Great reminder. I plan to track how many times I say ‘should’ today and then try to modify/diminish that number. In my ballet-themed trilogy my young professional dancers were better at avoiding ‘should’ than I am as their creator.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: