You Should Stop Shoulding Yourself

I was talking with some fellow coaches when I realized how much pressure I’ve been feeling to get “back to work.” Feeling bad that I wasn’t coaching anyone, creating anything, or doing anything work-related in my mind. Beating myself up for not being where I thought I “should” be a month after giving birth. Thinking I was behind. Fighting with my own mind…

The truth is, ALL of that pressure I felt was coming from within. Sure I could try to blame it on outside forces, but all the things I’d been telling myself about why I needed to be doing more, were coming from my own head. “I thought I would feel better by now. My physical recovery has been harder than I expected. I thought I would be getting better rest. I wanted to be doing more by now. I was planning to do all these things that aren’t possible anymore with the world being shut down. I haven’t gotten the friend support or physical support or emotional support I need. I was counting on all these things that changed so suddenly. I thought my baby would be happier. I see these other people doing all these things I’d like to be doing. Maybe I’m just making excuses, being lazy, and not really trying….”

And the conclusion from all these thoughts? “I should be doing this or that… I should be there by now… I should be working harder… I should have done something different… This isn’t how it should be… I should be feeling something else…”

I was shoulding myself into shame, discontentment, and resentment. And I was missing everything about where I was because I was so focused on where I thought I needed to be. Missing the fact that I’m still transitioning to having three kids. That I’m not getting much of what I need. That I spend a majority of my time holding, nursing, and caring for a baby that is completely dependent on me. Plus trying to still have a relationship with my other two kids and support THEM through this transition. AND maybe connect with my husband too. Ignoring the reality that this physical recovery has not been easy. That there is some heavy shit happening around me. That so many of my plans have gone out the window. And even that I’m choosing to prioritize my family and myself first.

It’s kind of amazing what we do to ourselves sometimes. Creating all these ideas in our heads that cause feelings of not doing enough or being enough. Wearing down our resolve and joy with expectations and comparisons. Believing that we are supposed to be somewhere we’re not. And that’s what builds up all this pressure, as we push on ourselves and take our thoughts out of the present. We plant tension in our minds and bodies, disconnecting from ourselves and causing a whole lot of unpleasant feelings.

I realized after all this, how often I used the word “should” in my vocabulary. “We should go there. You should do this. I should do that. Should we go to sleep or watch a movie?…” As if there is some ultra correct way to be spending every minute of my time. And noticing just how much shoulding I have in my life, I thought that maybe I should try to change that. 😉 I started to replace the shoulds with things like, “I would like to do this.” and, “I’m choosing that.” I’ve found myself owning more my feelings, taking responsibility for my wants and needs, and speaking more intentionally. And you know what? It feels really good! To redirect the judgement I’d been placing on myself into acceptance and purpose. I began to feel release! Letting go of that pressure and instead allowing myself to be right where I was at in any given moment.

That’s really what it means to stop shoulding yourself. To loosen your grip on the past and the future, making space to feel disappointed and even grieve if you need to. Then drawing yourself in to where you are now. Acknowledging what you ARE doing, who you ARE being… Validating your circumstances and feelings. And giving yourself permission to be HERE. There is nowhere else you are supposed to be. An idea that frees you up to decide where you want to go, without shaming yourself for not being there yet.

So in what areas of your life are you shoulding yourself? Discounting what you’re doing? Judging your own feelings? And what do you need in order to allow yourself to be where you are?

A letter to myself.

You are feeling a lot right now. It really is disappointing, everything that hasn’t worked out the way you hoped. This isn’t how you wanted it. And that sucks. It’s challenging, these struggles you’re having. You want to be doing more. You want things to be different. I see you. I see that your time is being used to do what is ultimately most important to you right now. And I hear that at the same time it feels like you aren’t really doing anything. I see that pain you’re feeling. And I hear how much you’d like to be feeling something else. I see your diligence and the way you are caring for yourself. And I hear when you think of that as laziness and tell yourself you’re not important. I want to release you from the pressure of believing you are not enough. There is nowhere else, no one else you need to be. I love you just as you are. You’re alright with me. All those thoughts and feelings are welcome here, without judgement or guilt or force. I accept you. I believe you. I hear you. Take my hand and just BE, here in the moment with me.

About the author

Ashley Newberg is a life and parenting coach with a passion for relationships, developmental trauma, unschooling, and out-of-the-box living. She is based in Colorado Springs, CO, and aims to travel the world with her husband, three daughters, and a dog named Faraday.


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