I woke up to my mind making up a conversation with another person today. It was telling this person, “I feel that your inner dialogue with yourself isn’t very healthy or helpful to you.” It was interesting, because it was addressed toward someone else in my mind, yet I felt as if I had been speaking to myself. I continued, “You aren’t being a good friend to yourself. You should be the best friend and cheerleader you have!”
This struck me as a lil nugget of truth. You (your mind) is the best friend you have.
However, it brought me to another point altogether. I remembered a psychology teacher telling me “there’s no need to ‘should all over yourself!’” I thought that was hilarious when I first heard it, and it was a wonderful reminder that he offered many times after that until it stuck. It really goes along with the inner dialogue piece I was talking about a moment ago.
All too often, I find that we “should” ALL over ourselves. Sometimes it even disguises itself as useful information! It looks like this:
- I should be doing something ________.
- I should get off my ass and call a friend.
- I should go outside and enjoy the fresh air.
- I should drink some water.
- I should get A, B and C done by such and such time.
- and so on.
The thing is, these are not bad or unhealthy thoughts at all!
In fact, they can all be wonderful and productive things, unless we are experiencing resistance toward doing so. Resistance can be a beautiful tool, and something to watch out for. Resistance can be extremely helpful, like when our body is telling us not to go for a run because it is too stiff, or doesn’t have enough fuel or water. It can be the body saying “I’m not ready to get out of bed yet. I need more sleep.” Resistance is not bad altogether.
However, FORCED resistance can be a total buzzkill! What do I mean by that? Well, let’s go back to the words “I should”. Giving oneself an expectation like that, without framing it with helpful support, can add psychological pressure and resistance where there was none otherwise. For example, let’s say I woke up and my first thought was, “I should go for a run.” I immediately feel like I’m being told what to do, and that adds forced resistance to the thought of running in my mind. Before a moment has gone by, I am already vetoing the idea! Furthermore, if I do not go for a run after all, I feel like I’m letting myself down, because "I should go for a run." The disappointment of not going for a run when I should may be a small moment in my mind, but it can have powerful effects on my psyche and feelings of overall well-being for the rest of the day.
So what does it look like to reframe the words “I should” with helpful support? It’s actually really simple! Most of the time, we can replace the word “should” with “could”, which changes the feeling behind the statement tremendously! For example, if I woke up and immediately thought, “I could go for a run,” that feels, from the very beginning, like a possibility, like the potential for a fun and healthy and rewarding exercise, like something I can see myself doing, and there is no forced resistance. What comes after this is just as important.
You see, now that I’ve made the act of running into a possibility, I give myself a moment to visualize doing it without any pretense, without it being something that “should” happen. By not “shoulding all over myself”, I allow myself to contemplate if running would feel good to me right now.
And therein lies the key. It’s all about what makes us feel good.
If it would feel good to run, than it’s a good idea, because doing so will make me feel good! Whereas, if I opened the idea with “I should”, the internal battle I have with resistance to those words will make me feel less good about running.
Tuning in and shifting the language we have with ourselves can create powerful, positive and lasting changes in mind. The cool thing is that it doesn’t require a lot of effort to replace “should” with “could”. All it takes is a little bit of awareness of your inner dialogue. You can start today by simply observing the words you use when you talk with your self, the words you use in your own mind. If you notice that you're using the word "Should", try replacing it with "Could" and see if that feels different. The more you do this, the more natural it will become to use the word "could" as a replacement from now on.
Now, just a caveat here, obviously the replacement isn't always applicable. For instance, when someone says, "You should be there by 5 PM", realize that replacing the word "should" with "could" in this situation doesn't really make sense... so play with it, and see what works for you!
I hope you enjoyed this tip for being a better friend to yourself. I'd love to hear what you think about this idea. Do you have some language-shifting tips and tricks of your own? Leave a comment and feel free to share other ways that you have found to be a great friend to yourself, or other ways of upgrading your language and thinking consciously! I'd love to hear what you have to say.
With that, I think I may actually GO for a run! It has been... years, literally, and lately I have been feeling the pull again. I'm hoping it will help to increase my energy, a much needed thing for this Narcoleptic! See you next time, and have a great weekend!