Category Archives: Shame

Should v2.0

It’s time to have a conversation about “should.”

Let’s first look at the aversion to the word should:

I get why we have had a pushback against “should” in recent times. We needed it. We needed the catalyst and the language to pause and redirect our energies toward something more compassionate and less judgmental.

I remember when I first embraced the ‘anti-should’ movement. It felt empowering and liberating, kind of like how saying “no” feels. At one point I turned to someone who was suggesting ways for me to behave, and I said, “Don’t ‘should’ on me.”

It was that simple, that clear. Someone else was should-dumping all over me from their perspective without taking time, empathy, or compassion to understand mine. Standing up for myself and putting a stop to it felt great.

Eventually, it trickled down into telling myself to stop using the word should as well, which was even more empowering. Then, eventually, I started asking my clients to pause and redirect when they used the word themselves. I had all but obliterated “should” from my vocabulary.

For me, “should” was a bad word, with bad consequences and shameful connotations.

But wow, is that a whole lot of judgment to be placing on 6 little letters. So, it’s time to take a step back. Thankfully, a recent conversation with a friend helped me clarify the dreaded “should” and come to a new understanding.

Let’s call this “Should version 2.0.”

First of all, there are two kinds of “should” in our lives. One is spirit-enhancing and the other is spirit-draining. So, what’s the difference?

The spirit-enhancing should is value-aligned. That means that the “shoulds” we tell ourselves are in alignment with our core values and serve to help us live more fully from a values-driven direction. Examples of this might be:

  • You SHOULD kiss your partner goodnight every night (IF a core value is expressing love in relationships).
  • You SHOULD return a phone call in a timely manner (IF a core value is being prompt and/or respecting others’ time).

Shoulds that reinforce value-aligned actions would be spirit-enhancing. They serve as loving reminders. Yes, “should” can be loving.

Alternatively, the spirit-draining shoulds are judgment based. That means that they are infused with shame and carry a subsequent judgment of good or bad with them. Using the same example:

  • You SHOULD kiss your partner goodnight (because you’re a bad person if you don’t).
  • You SHOULD return a phone call in a timely manner (because if you don’t, you’re lazy and disrespectful).

The defining phrase it what changes the should, and it’s always there. You have to look for it and cross-check it against your core values. Furthermore, it’s nobody’s decision but your own what your core values are. So, “should” when delivered by an external party is almost always judgment-based.

This is the key point: if your “should” is based on external directives that you haven’t filtered through your own core values, then it’s most likely not in alignment and therefore spirit-draining.

So, if you find yourself saying “I SHOULD do this,” or ” I SHOULD do that,” the first question to ask is whether this suggestion comes from within you or outside of yourself. If it’s from outside, chances are it’s draining you.

If it’s from within:

  1. look for the qualifying phrase after the should and identify it, and
  2. run it through the filter of your core values to determine if it’s in alignment.

If it’s not, let it go and find something that is aligned. If it is aligned, embrace it for all its worth!

P.S. If you want to learn more about identifying your core values, let me know. I have a system in place that will help you and empower you through all your decisions in life.

Water is Life and other wisdom

Let Go… Live in the Now… Be the Change…

Those are beautiful and wise sentiments, aren’t they? I agree. There are so many truths in the wisdom and teaching that has been shared. All of these and many more are great suggestions for living a more peaceful balanced life. But… (you knew there would be a “but” from me, didn’t you?)… they can also be very shame-inducing and part of an endless cycle of fear, failure and lack.

Here’s why: Suggesting to someone how to BE, is virtually the same as telling them what they currently ARE is wrong. (Even without actually saying the words “You’re wrong.”)

“You’re wrong,” is an incredibly powerful statement. It negates and trivializes another person’s existence, experience and truth. Furthermore, these mantra-esque suggestions are statements of hindsight. They don’t express the actual work someone had to go through to arrive at this enlightened state and wisdom. (The Buddha didn’t just “let go” for example, it took a fair amount of searching, process and exploration for him to arrive at “letting go.”) And therein lies the problem I have with these distilled statements of truth.

Stating a simplified truth as fact disavows the process,
and the process is where enlightenment occurs.

So, my goal is to give some meat and substance to commonly-held truths or wisdom. My hope is that it will help you along your journey to know that you’re not alone and perhaps gain some insight into your own process, via someone else’s (aka: mine). Here’s a simple metaphor to get us started and explain my intention:

The example: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

In this instance, the wisdom statement made by a thought leader might be: “Water is Life.” The sages, gurus, and teachers who have arrived at that statement could more accurately say, “Water saved my life,” but it’s less auspicious. Most importantly, though, how they got to this simple truth might sound like this:

“I was thirsty, tired, alone, scared, and I didn’t know what to do. As I sat at the side of the road, several people passed me who told me there was water up ahead. A few strangers gave me sips from their own supply. Sips! Sips do nothing when you’re dehydrated! What were they thinking? Why couldn’t they just give me their water?! But finally, I saw a footpath, and I started walking. At first I stumbled. A lot. Then it became easier. Then the path stopped and I had to find another one. And another one. All the while, I was still thirsty, but there was some shade along the way, and I took refuge in it, pausing here and there. That was nice. Finally, at a bend in the path, I saw a well. At the well, I sat down. How was I going to get the water? Maybe someone else would come along who had a bucket. So I sat, and sat, and waited. Waited for someone else to come help me relieve my thirst. Nobody came. Heck, I didn’t even know if the well had any water in it. So, I walked on. Still thirsty, I thought of turning back. Many times. Actually, sometimes I did. But I remembered what one stranger said – there’s water up ahead. Maybe he wasn’t referring to the well. So, I kept going. It wasn’t easy. In fact, a lot of the time it hurt and I was in pain. But I kept going. Hoping the stranger was right. Then it happened. I heard it before I saw it – the gentle babble of a clear stream. Water! Open water! Flowing water! My heart sang! I found water. I found water!!! An endless supply of water. I walked over to it, cupped my hands, and took my first sip… I would be thirsty no more. Ahh, life.”

Much (much) later, that entire story would have been boiled down to “Water is Life,” a simple, easy truth. However, in that simple, easy truth we’ve lost the humanity in the wisdom. The story TAUGHT the truth to the teacher. And, in my opinion, the story is much more powerful, accessible and pure.

Sadly, a simple phrase, such as “Water is Life” can be shaming for some, and simply inaccessible for others, no matter how true it is. Which is why I hope to breakdown some of these sayings into bite-size stories that help them come alive.

As such, you’re welcome to send me your suggestions or questions for addressing other “truths” you’ve heard along the way and might be struggling with, and I will do my best to shed some light on them. And may I suggest the next time someone tells you to “let go” because it’s the path to happiness and freedom – perhaps you could ask them exactly how they’ve managed to do it, because the wisdom behind the truth lies in the story.


What and If

Two (somewhat) harmless words on their own, yet when combined “what” and “if” carry the entire power of the Universe in 6 letters that can be simultaneously destructive and/or creative.

Here’s the difference:

“What if” is attached to the most creative and infinite power of all: imagination. As a tool for exploration and innovation, these two little words open up endless possibilities. Dreams become realities.

However, “what if” when used in hindsight becomes the harbinger of shame, blame and despair. The ‘shoulda-coulda-woulda’ of that which was not done or seen. The hallmark of regret and the key that unlocks the abode of fear within the mind.

Six letters, two words…powerful beyond measure, and what separates how they are used, is you.