Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.

By Quinn Nystrom, MS

Should…such a benign word, but such a pressure-filled one too.

Basically the definition of “should” is the same as “ought to” as in; I ought to schedule that dentist appointment before the end of the month.

Since we were little, our parents were charged with lovingly directing us to all the things we should do. We should brush our teeth before bedtime. We should comb our hair, be polite and not talk to strangers.

When the time for us to start school arrives, our teachers teach us all sorts of new shoulds like you should raise your hand if you have a question or we should play nice with others. When we graduate from school and enter the world of 9-5 jobs, there are some brand new and more complex shoulds involved with this new chapter as well.

As an employed person, we learned that we should arrive to work on time and do our very best during our 8+ hour shift. We learned that we should speak kindly to our coworkers even thought the favor isn’t always returned.

All of these types of “ought tos” are basically necessary life skills that help us make friends, respect other adults, be accountable for our actions and be responsible. These shoulds are valuable, necessary and help us be better human beings.

But, what about the other kind of shoulds?

The ones that have no benefit to our lives yet seem to have such a deep impact on it. These are the shoulds that come from the mouths of others (sometimes disguised as well-meaning advice) who think they know what is best for us. This more invasive version includes suggestions like how we should see the new Star Wars movie or wear a certain brand of clothing.

Because, you know, it’s what everyone else is doing so it must be good, right?

Though often offered up in a helpful way these kinds of unsolicited advice usually end up being not so helpful at all.  Everyone else’s shoulds begin to pile up, rattle around in our heads and add the already overwhelming noise of daily life. Being ‘should on” constantly also makes us start to second-guess what we thought was the perfect path, process, or habit for our lives. These shoulds become overly influential even though they have no place in our Master Plan.

Unless, we make a point to filter out this excess noise and stay true to what we know works for us.

I’m not saying we should never try anything new because new adventures are what help us grow! But I am saying that we can practice what a friend of mine calls The Teflon Factor. When we start feeling like outside pressure are throwing a barrage of shoulds in our direction that don’t align with our goals, we can consider what makes sense to our lives and let the rest ssssllliiidddeee off.

Like Teflon.

What shoulds are you letting weigh you down?