I am offering you the chance to change. Follow a series of posts and increase your self-worth and esteem. Low self-esteem is like a weight around your neck and stops you moving forward but it is not your story. It is the result of believing false stories and having a “I am bad” mental filter. Join me for the next 10 days and I would be happy to give you input on your answers. Send them to me using the contact form at the end of this post for free no-obligation advice. Details of my online therapy packages can be found on drnjenner.com Good luck on your journey to the new you!
Dr Nicholas Jenner
Should’s are messages that we inherit from parents, peers, religion or community that fuel low self-esteem in our mind. Should’s become a measure that you compare yourself to others with and when we fail to live up to these thoughts, we chastise ourselves. “I should have done better” “I should be more productive” “I should be a perfect friend/lover/partner”. Sometimes, these should’s are mistaken for motivation and you may think they are pushing you to be better but they are actually extremely destructively rigid and set impossible levels of expectation. One way to stop this is to separate values from should’s. Values provide meaning and purpose and they help guide you to doing the right thing. Values are, in comparison to should are:
- Values are flexible, allowing for exceptions depending on circumstances whereas should’s are unbending and rigid
- Values are consciously owned rather than obligatory. Doing something because it is right against thinking that it ought to be done.
- Values are realistic, balanced and carry a balanced view of positive and negative. Should’s tell you to pursue something unrealistic with rules that make no sense.
- Values are life-enhancing rather than life restricting. Values allow you to pursue emotional and physical needs. Should’s force you sacrifice values.
Should’s attack self-esteem in two ways:
- They are passed down rules that don’t fit the adult. They drive you to compare and seek unrealistic perfection based on other people’s frameworks. They promote inner critical thinking when these impossible standards.
- They attack you on moral grounds telling you that things you do are “wrong”. This takes you back to early experiences with parents who practiced “black and white” parenting. If you had parents who named your choices, as wrong, you may develop should’s that turn personal preferences and tastes into moral issues.
Your exercise for Day 6
- Write down a list of your “should’s”. Note down what comes up when you ask yourself “What are my rules for living?” These might be how you should act in relationships, at work, how to parent or relate to others.
- Choose three “should” statements from above that you believe undermine your self-esteem. Select those that cause you shame and guilt or inner conflict. Explore each one under the following:
Flexible or rigid?, Life restricting or Life enhancing? Obligatory or owned?, Realistic or unrealistic.
- What would your life be like if you could be rid of these should’s? Are there things you are doing or not doing because of them?
- Now write your values. Think of someone you admire. Maybe this person has traits that you would like as values? Write about this person…what qualities stand out? Why do you admire them and which of these qualities do you share with them? Make a list of your core values for life or the way you feel you want to live your life. Be specific…for example, reliability, honesty, loyalty are good values to have.