Why is letting go of shoulds such a tricky thing?

I sit with clients that tell me, “I should be happy because my partner loves me“, “I’m 35 and should have a baby“, “I should be grateful for the house I live in” and “I should give my kids more attention”.

What’s making these clients so unhappy is they feel they are falling short of society, family and cultural expectations, and/or not making these changes fast enough.

The enslaving power of personal rules was first recognized by the world-renowned psychiatrist Dr Karen Horney, who wrote about “the tyranny of the should“.

It demonstrates our need for perfection, which drives us into wanting to become nothing short of our own ideal self.  So we give ourselves a complex set of rules or shoulds and should nots.

The shoulds are endless aren’t they?

Should be … married, have a house, have a baby, love my husband, have a successful career, send our kids to the best schools, and travel overseas.

My biggest should was back in the days when I was a counsellor.  I felt I should be non judgmental and compassionate towards child abusers, but I found it hard to empathise so I felt ashamed and would beat myself up about it.

So how do you break free?  

Firstly we need to recognise that we’ve enslaved ourselves with a whole bunch of personal rules.  It means going against the values of society, friends, teachers, co-workers, family, and generally surprising and pissing a whole lot of people off in the process.

Repeat after me, “No More Shoulds!”

Stop living a lie!

When we stop lying to ourselves, the result in bliss.  So stop caring what others think. Give yourself the freedom to live honestly and authentically.

We can fall into the trap of doing things in life just to fulfil someone else’s belief of what they need from us.  I’ve been known to do things I don’t necessarily want to, just to be there for people because I should.

So here’s the question you can ask yourself:

Is the “should” you’re doing getting in the way of you having the life you want to live?

If so, isn’t it time to stop contributing to your unhappiness?


You owe it to yourself to start making some new choices and changes.



Life Balance Coach

Fiona Craig

Fiona Craig is a work-life balance coach, business mentor, writer, speaker and busy mum who helps women become better at juggling their career and family.  You can call Fiona on 0405 433 217 for a 20 minute FREE Rapid Results coaching session and get help achieving your life goals.