Episode 19: Shutting Down The Shoulds

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This week we’re talking about shutting down the shoulds. We all have ideas of how the world should run, how people in it should act and behave, and we have rules for how we should feel, what we should do, how we should look, and even what we should think or not think. We are really good at shoulding. We should ourselves and others all throughout the day and it’s hurting you more than you might think. Tune in with LDS Life Coach, Hannah Coles to hear more!

You are listening to the Confidence Catalyst podcast episode 19: Shutting Down The Should’s with your host, LDS Life Coach Hannah Coles

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Shutting down the shoulds

So this week we’re talking about shutting down the shoulds. This is something that everyone deals with and I mean everyone. We all have ideas of how the world should run, how people in it should act and behave, and we have rules for how we should feel, what we should do, how we should look, and even what we should think or not think.

Despite what some people claim we really are thoughtful creatures. Sometimes the thoughts aren’t serving best but we do a lot of thinking.

Pause for a second and think of the last time you used or thought the word “should”. I should have gone to bed earlier. I shouldn’t have eaten ice cream so late at night. I should drink 8 glasses of water each day. I should be able to get this by now. I shouldn’t weigh this much. I should go to the gym. I should stop scrolling on Pinterest and get to work.  I should be more fun. I should have said yes. I should have said no. I should read my scriptures. I should be doing something more productive. The list is quite extensive, right?

What about the should’s we place on others? They shouldn’t have made such a mess. They should be grateful. They should have said, thank you or sorry or something. They should call. They should help. They should have remembered. They should be driving faster. They shouldn’t talk to me like that. They should respect me. They should be more prepared…and on and on that list could go.

We “should” get a gold medal for being so good at the shoulds

The fact is we’re really good at shoulding. We should ourselves and others all throughout the day and it’s hurting you more than you might think.

I recently learned that the word Should when taken back to its origins al meaning, it used to mean, to scold. Now google defines it a little softer and in a more gentle way stating, “used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness” 

It sounds a little more virtuous in these terms but really the effect we feel is on par with it’s original origin. To scold. To scold you or others when people aren’t doing what you think they should or shouldn’t. 

There’s a lot of resistance and tension around this word. It limits and restricts us and creates discord, resentment, guilt, worry, panic, and shame as well. 

The Manual

You may have heard me talk about the Manual before and the manual was an eyeopening concept for me to learn. It really offered me insight and awareness into the discord that I was not only feeling but learned that I was creating. 

A manual is an instruction guide or playbook we have for someone or something in our lives about how we would like them to show up so that we in turn can feel good and happy. One of the problems with this is that we don’t tell people what’s in our manual. We just silently judge them about not doing what we think they should or shouldn’t be doing. And another problem is that we don’t even realize that hanging onto this belief and chapter in our manual is actually causing us a lot of inner drama, turmoil, and pain. We just think that the other person should just “know” what to do or not do.

A lot of times it feels justified even to hang onto these beliefs and expectations but it’s creating more havoc than good because we also tie our emotional well being to this playbook and whether they adhere to it or not. We want everyone to follow our manual because then we think we’d be happier and live an easier life. We wouldn’t have to think contrary thoughts or question our ideas. But the truth is that this thinking creates pain and suffering for us. It actually creates resistance because subconsciously you’re believing that they can make you feel happy or sad. And if their actions create how you feel you’re powerless. 

You are powerful!

The good news is that only you have that power. Only you can change how you feel and choose how you want to feel. Other people can’t hurt you or make you feel anything,. They’re all just circumstances. Neutral by definition – what they do or don’t do doesn’t mean anything until you think about it, interpret it, and then choose to make it mean something about you. But you have the power. It’s all you even when you’re tempted to think it’s them. It’s all you.

Here’s the thing, we all have our own manuals or playbooks. We have this imaginary set of rules -masked as should’s that we and others need to abide by for us to be happy and live the way we think we want to. Everything we tack a should to is because of how we think we’ll feel if that happens.

We have manuals for our family members and friends and co-workers and our spouse. We think they should do certain things so that we’ll feel better. He should listen to me. They should be grateful. They should be more prepared. They should control their kids better. It’s all because we think our lives will be better off and that we’ll feel differently/more positive if they lived the way we wanted them too.

These “rules” are fictional, optional, and sometimes ridiculous

But the truth of the matter is these rules, these should and shouldn’ts are all fictional. They’re all just thoughts that we’ve believed for so long and so strongly that we subconsciously feel is now right and wrong. They should – I should actually equals right in our book and they shouldn’t or I shouldn’t equals wrong. 

But have you ever stopped to question this belief? Have you ever stopped to think, “wait, who said it should be this way and why should it be?” This isn’t to get us off the hook morally or to just drop all sense of values. It’s just for you to know that these morals and values are choices, they really are optional and the best part of this is that we get to use our agency to choose whether we want to believe and abide by these values and morals. Question this, ask yourself, why do I believe what I believe? 

And this goes for everything, even things you might think is obvious but others still do it – like why you think people should drive faster in the fast lane? Why do you think your kids should just automatically clean up after themselves? Why do you think your sister in law shouldn’t say things like that to you? Why do you think those people shouldn’t call and ask for favor after favor? Question all of it – question why you think people should or shouldn’t say or do certain things. 

The manual is creating stress and pain

When you do you’ll start uncovering your manual and then you can decide if you like that belief or if it’s causing pain and stress.

Let me give you an example. This is one that’s been popping up pretty frequently lately, we have this underlying belief that other people shouldn’t be upset, mad, or at odds with us. Think for a minute when someone was upset with you, whether that’s your kids, spouse, friend, boss, family member, acquaintance, etc – and I want you to think about what that was like for you.

Did you spend a lot of time thinking about this? Stewing over it, overthinking it? Talking about it to others? Saying things like, “they shouldn’t be mad at me. Why are they mad at me? I didn’t even do anything.”

We don’t like when people aren’t enamored with us and we have a clear chapter in our manuals about this. Other people shouldn’t be upset with me. And when we think and believe this chapter and rule in our book we also start looking for evidence to prove it true and thus creating a lot of inner turmoil with us. So I like to stop and question this. 

Questions are the antidote!

I question this for myself and my clients. 

Why do I need them to be happy with me? 

Why do I need them to listen and understand me?

Why do I need them to think positively about me?

In other words, why do you believe what you believe?

The answer is generally always because of a feeling.

When they’re upset with us it’s uncomfortable. We don’t like when others are upset with us because we make it mean something negative about us. We make it uncomfortable. We don’t like being confronted with thought and wondering why they might be upset and what they might be thinking of us. But really it’s all because we don’t like feeling uncomfortable. When they’re happy with us we don’t have to worry, or wonder, or sit with discomfort which is what our manual is trying to protect us from. 

People get to think, feel, and believe what they want…what?!

But the thing is, other people get to think and believe what they want to about us. They get to be upset and frustrated with you. They get to feel what they want to and the mistake that we make is believing that they can make us feel something. 

What they think and feel is totally neutral. It doesn’t mean anything unless you decide to make it mean something and you have that option to choose to make it mean something uncomfortable or not. Instead of jumping into defense – I didn’t do anything! They have no right to be mad at me! We can just question these thoughts.

Stay in charge of your emotional well-being

We misplace who is in charge of our emotional wellbeing. We think it’s in the shoulds. If they just adhere to my manual – my book of instructions that tells you how I like to be treated, thought of, felt about, and talked to then I could feel better and happy and just live a daisies and rainbow’s kind of life but that’s not what life is. Life is growth. Growth is stretching, strengthening, testing, discomfort. So when you start to question these beliefs and biases you realize that they don’t have to do anything or think anything for you to feel how you want to feel.

They aren’t that powerful. You are the only one that gets to control that aspect over you. What they do is a circumstance. It’s an opportunity to exercise your agency. To choose to make it a problem or not. It’s an opportunity, a gift to you to decide deliberately how you want to feel and how you want to show up. To get out of default mode and intentionally live how you want to live.

We interact with a lot of people and we have chapters in our manuals for everything. This isn’t a bad thing either. Our brains are designed to protect us.  So the desire we have to want to know what to expect and to even try to control the world outside of us comes that primitive programming. We want to not have anything happen that we aren’t prepared for. That might be uncomfortable. 

The manual is the source of discomfort

But when you think about, the only thing creating the discomfort in the first place is the belief you have that things should and shouldn’t be a certain way.

I’m heavily involved with the music at church and I noticed one Sunday that I really like when the speakers comment on the musical number. Like, right after they sing, or play something that the speaker right after says something, compliments them in some way.

Well, this one particular Sunday there was a really beautiful musical number and the speaker got up right after and jumped straight into their address and didn’t even acknowledge that something just happened. I was annoyed and I caught my inner-self complaining about it, thinking, “He SHOULD have said something! That’s not right! When people prepare a musical number – it should be acknowledged!”

Pause, interrupt, inquire

I found this really interesting to notice. So I questioned it. Why was this bothering me? Why did I believe the speaker should say something? As I was sitting their thinking I realized that I had a lot of thoughts about it. We don’t clap in sacrament meeting because it’s sacred and holy so they don’t get validation through that. It’s really up to the next speaker to offer some form of approval. And when they don’t say anything it leaves you with your own thoughts, doubts, and insecurities. Did they not like it? Was it not moving or inspiring? Did it sound bad?

The only reason I had that chapter was because I experienced that before too – sitting there after spending weeks practicing and preparing to sit back down in silence. I wanted them to validate me so that I didn’t have to do that work. But the problem here is again, assigning our emotional well being to others. So when I questioned why I believed what I believed I came to a clear understanding of why my brain thought that was a good idea to keep around but also I noticed it was creating pain and suffering for me. Even though it seemed like a lofty and beautiful thought – it was the only thing creating my inner conflict and did I want to keep that?

Dropping your manual

It’s a really helpful idea to drop you manuals. You’ll notice when you start digging deeper your manuals create more suffering than protecting you from potential emotional danger. The only danger you’re in emotionally is what you choose to think about and when you’re caught in resistance you create that turmoil. It’s not them. It’s not what they should or shouldn’t do – it’s only your thoughts about it that create that pain. Do you still want to keep it?

A lot of people freak out when I suggest they might want to let their manuals go. And sometimes they’re just not ready for that. They’d rather be upset and miserable holding onto the belief that the other person SHOULD do something or not do something instead of questioning why they believe that in the first place. They feel justified in holding tightly to those beliefs but holding tightly is the only thing creating your suffering. Because the truth of it is, that you get to believe anything you want. Isn’t that the best news ever?

You are in control

You are in control and in charge of your emotional well being. When you question your manual you have to figure out a way to feel how you want to feel on your own without the other party needing to do something so you can feel better.

If you want to feel better and use your agency to design a life of your choosing you need to take the time to inquire, to deeply ponder and question each chapter of your manual as it arises and I tell you what, I’m still learning different sections and different chapters of my manual.

It’s not good or bad, or right or wrong. It’s all just inquiry, information, and I love learning more about myself because each time I learn something about myself it gives me an opportunity to up level, refine, and intentionally choose if I like that part of myself or if I want to become better. It helps me show up as my best self.

Good things happen when you drop your manuals

When you can drop your manuals for how other people should or shouldn’t show up then you can let them be themselves and not try to control them in anyway or think you know whats best for them then the resistance is gone. It’s a beautiful space where you can both be genuine, honest, and authentic.

Trust and confidence thrives in this environment. Confidence that you can be you and embrace all the parts of you as a work in progress, still growing, still refining, still learning but knowing that you’re whole and worthy now and that they are also whole, and human and it’s okay to be that. You’ll be able to take that relationship to a much deeper level. We can show up calm and more loving when we don’t try and make others’ actions mean something negative about us.

Want a better relationship? Drop the manual

This is true in all relationships. Dropping the manuals is a transformative practice in connections. One of the biggest fears all humans have is the fear of being rejected and not accepted. It the idea that we’re not enough, that we’re lacking in some area and when you hold tight to your idea of what should and shouldn’t happen it creates a tense and fragile environment where they’re worried about letting you down and then you’re worried about what they’re secretly thinking. It breeds insecurities. 

So start by looking inside. Whenever you have a should pop up – instead of going straight to judgement go to questioning. Question why you believe that, where that thought came from, and do you still really like it and want to hold on to it?

Why not?

One question I like to ask myself and my clients is, “Why not?” – When someone does something and my manual is like, uh…no…and I can feel myself going to judgement I just pause and ask myself, wait, why not? Why shouldn’t they do that? Think that? Feel that? Why do I believe what I believe?

Questioning your manual one chapter at a time will revolutionize your life. You’ll start feeling lighter, freer, and more confident because you’re no longer in resistance but you’re now in restructuring and creating.

Focus on what you can control and what you want to create

You get to focus on what you can control and what you want to create instead of arguing with what is and what shouldn’t be. Dropping your manual is a beautiful thing. It’s creating more confidence in your life because you learn and know that you don’t need others to do things a certain way so that you can feel better – it’s knowing that you control how you feel and how you want to show up in any circumstance. It’s a really beautiful practice. 

Okay, friends. Write to me – I wanna hear from you! Better yet hop on over to my website, schedule a call and let’s chat! Have a great week! I’ll talk to you next time!

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Episode 8: How to Feel Less Pain


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