I Stopped Saying the S Word, and it Changed Everything


Do you ever find yourself saying a word or a phrase consistently throughout the day, good or bad? There was a time, very recently, when I caught myself using this one word over and over again in my daily life, and it turned out to be a pretty bad one. The word? “Should.”

“I really should(n’t) have…”

“I should(n’t) have said…” 

“I should(n’t) go to…” 

The list goes on. Before I knew it, my self-esteem, self-respect, and self-efficacy was so negatively impacted by this line of thinking that I found myself feeling completely overwhelmed, and what’s worse – worthless! All the shoulds stacked against me, and I couldn’t see over the top of them! And that’s not the wife, mom, or woman I wanted to be.

Well, I’ve finally had it. I’m no longer saying the S word, at least I’m scaling it waaayyyy back, and I’ve already seen a tremendous difference in my attitude. I think think this S word does more damage to moms than any other human on earth. And perhaps it would be best if we left it out of our vocabulary entirely. Let me explain.

The word should indicates obligation, correctness, or expectation – particularly as they relate to criticism. I don’t recall ever using the word without a hint of regret, remorse, or worst of all – another S word – shame. And there’s definitely too much of THAT going around in mom world. 

There are a few ways we can stop the “shoulds” in their tracks! And I’ve taken pains to NOT say “you should stop saying should” here folks! The next time you want to say this six-letter-word, let’s replace it with:

  1. Could. This word is much nicer! It leaves room for choices, room for the unexpected, and room for grace! “I could take the kids to the park today… or they may all need a rest after school.” See how that one word eliminates an expectation on yourself? “We could go out to eat for dinner… or we could have a leftover picnic on the living room floor to save money.” Options. Wiggle room. Grace. I don’t know about you, but my heart is a little lighter just thinking about it! 
  2. Would. Another alternative that can be used to avoid the dreaded S word, would denotes free will and a desire to do something, or not do something. Invited to a party? “I would love to…” Can’t go? “…but it’s not a good time.” Instead of thinking, ‘I should go, because…’, change the self-talk and dump the shame. In other words, don’t should on yourself! 
  3. Can. Mama, I’m here to tell you that you CAN do hard, good, crazy amazing things! Not because you should, but because you are just that awesome! “I can run these errands today… I can write these thank-you notes today… I can say yes (or no) to that invitation… I can take my child lunch out to lunch today.” Wow! Now that sounds better. Can and should are sometimes used interchangeably, but they’re vastly different. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Anyone else’s mom used to say that? She was right. 

Throughout times of the year when expectations are high and obligations are many, I would just encourage you to give careful thought to how you choose your yeses and no’s. Others’ expectations, and maybe even our own notions of how things should go, are a poor compass for directing decisions about how we live our lives and run our homes. Can I get an amen?! The next time you are about to use the S word, try saying something else instead. I’m positive that you’ll notice a huge difference in your attitude as your self-talk adjusts to this new, should-free speech! 


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