The tyranny of the shoulds


“I shouldn’t have eaten that. What should I eat? I should exercise more. I should know better. I know what I should do, I just don’t do it. It’s 1pm:I should eat now,” etc, etc….

Sound familiar?

Dieters tend to use outside circumstances to determine what, when, how and how much they should or shouldn’t eat!  They’ll eat because its lunch time or because others are eating.  They’ll monitor the amount they eat by measuring it or making it a proportion of someone else’s meal eg their husband’s.  They’re at the mercy of the “shoulds!” They’ll do this with exercise and other areas of their lives as well.  They are constantly telling themselves what they should and shouldn’t do!

But what’s the problem with trying to do what we know to do?

How we react to shoulds!
How we react to shoulds!

The problem is that no human being on the planet likes be told what to do!  Not even by ourselves!!  What do we do when we get told what to do?  We rebel!  It’s human nature!  It’s easier to change how we talk to ourselves that it is to change human nature.  This is the source of your self sabotage.

Why do we do this?

We do this because we’re not internally focused enough to listen to our own cues.  We don’t “hear” our appetite.  We don’t have supportive guidelines that we stick to.  All this happens because we no longer trust ourselves.  Too many diet failures, temporary health kicks and unfulfilled New Year’s resolutions have put an end to that! 

What can we do to escape the tyranny of the shoulds?

 1.     Firstly, become aware of your language.  Notice how often you tell yourself you should or shouldn’t do something.  Swap the “should” for “could” or “will” and see what happens!

 2.     More difficult, but essential, is getting in touch with your inner guidance.  You can relearn to listen to your hunger by experimenting with eating only when you’re hungry.  You may need to relearn the signals but this happens as you practice.

 3.     Stop doing things because you should do and start doing things because you want to or just because!  Why do we need a reason?  Why can’t we do something just because it feels good?  How constrained our personalities and our lives become because we have to do everything for a good reason or because it’s good for us.  Bob Proctor, wealth guru, says he only does things he loves and while this may seem unrealistic right now, it’s actually where you head once you start to listen to your inner wisdom.

 4.     Look at trust.  My experience is that we don’t trust ourselves anymore because we’re not trustworthy!  I don’t mean that in a judgmental way, just that we’ve broken our own rules so many times that we are no longer sure that we’re someone we can count on.  Be careful the promises you make, and the ones that you do, make sure you honour them. This is also a time for cultivating your faith in a higher power.  If you can’t trust yourself but you can trust something bigger than you then you’re on your way.

 5.     Always be kind and gentle to yourself.  Be curious and interested in your own behaviours even the destructive ones.  This is far more effective for bringing about change than being harsh and judgmental towards yourself. 

If you’d like professional guidance in getting in touch with your inner wisdom, I’d be happy to speak with you.  Please go to to request your interview. 






Brenda Rogers

With over 25 years experience as a corporate trainer, naturopath, yoga teacher and wise woman educator, Brenda is the head clinician and coach at Quintessence Health.

"A healthy mind and body simply ensures you have the time and energy to fully express and manifest your life’s purpose – it facilitates the unfolding of joy."

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