There are plenty of words out there that can bring others down but the most commonly used word isn't a swear word or derogatory. It's a judgement word. A word that implies we are not enough, that we aren't doing enough. It's used every single day and we say it to ourselves as well as to those around us. It masquerades as a normal word but the power behind it can be devastating.  What is this terrible word? Should

When we say "should," we imply that things should be different, should be better, should be anything but what they are. "Should" applies to situations ("it shouldn't be like this"), people ("you should be doing it this way:), and ourselves ("I should meditate"). "Should" can be a powerful motivator but it rarely comes from a place of kindness or love. Even if meant with the best of intentions, "should" can be quite destructive. 

When we think or say that situations should be different, we're judging them based on an expectation. We're denying ourselves the opportunity to live in the moment, to learn from things as they are, and to exceed expectations in a different way. Our expectations are a judgment, implying things aren't going as planned or are not good enough as they are at this moment. 

When we tell someone else that they should do something, it also implies they aren't living up to expectation, they aren't doing it right, and/or they could be doing so much better and more. We often tell others "they should..." with the best intentions but the term can lack kindness and sincerity. 

When we tell ourselves we should be doing something... that absolutely comes from a place of judgment. We're looking at ourselves and judging that we aren't good enough. We aren't where we need to be. We aren't living up to our own expectations and the expectations of others. We should be better. 

Here's the thing. We shouldn't be better. We can be better. It's not "I should," it's "I want to" or "I will." Do you feel the difference in those phrases? "Should" carries so many implications. It doesn't mean you want to, it means you feel pressured to (either by others, yourself or both). 

And it never ends. You could go workout because you told yourself you should but then you'll tell yourself you should be reading more. Should be eating healthier. Should be spending more time with family. Everything is open to judgment and should-be statements. But it's not about what you should be doing or who you should be. It's about who you are, what you want to do, and living judgment-free. 

How can we remove "should" from our vocabulary? We can't. We can't stop others from saying it to us and while we can try to keep from saying it ourselves, it's a word fully engrained in our society as acceptable and normal. What we can do is do our best to stop using it, to stop saying it and most importantly, stop internalizing it. Stop using it to judge and instead appreciate things as they are and use more powerful words to help motivate yourself and others. 

Listen to the audio reading of this post as well as hear more details about this topic and the inspiration behind this post by tuning into the Happiness Abound Podcast, episode 19. You can subscribe on iTunes and GooglePlay.  

Photo by Eric Carlson on Unsplash