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Why Do We “Should” All Over Ourselves?

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expectationsWhy are we so hard on ourselves?

I think we have all done it.  Setting unrealistic expectations of where we should be at a certain point in our life.  My question though is why are we “shoulding” all over ourselves?

Quarter-Century Crisis – 1 year:

I went through it in a big way in my mid-twenties (doesn’t everyone?).  Unlike many people who had some quarter-century crises I had a crisis at 24.  A huge part of it was that I felt like I should have been at a certain point by that age and because I wasn’t, I was in a funk.  I was “shoulding” all over myself.  A big huge pile of “should.”  (FYI – the pun will keep going btw)

At the age of 24 I had the completely unrealistic expectation that I should have been married, purchased a home and starting a family.  Truth be told (and I don’t know why I thought this) I figured I wouldn’t be working – I assume being home with kids at that point.

Boy was I out of whack with my reality:

I had completely unrealistic expectations and I’m not sure where they came from.  There was no family pressure that would have caused me to think about things that way.  I was with Scott at the time but we were 3 years away from getting married and buying a house and we still don’t have kids.  I also started my first “big-girl” job 3 month before so I was working at that time.  These thoughts didn’t make sense at all.  I even knew that at the time but it didn’t matter at the time either.

I would love to say that I got over it learned an important life lesson about unrealistic expectations and become an amazing person but that isn’t the case.  Sadly I’m still mortal…

Managing Money Expectations:

I also know that people do this when it comes to money.  Ever utter any of these phrases?

I should…

  • Have a bigger bank account balance
  • Be able to retire
  • Have a larger net worth
  • Be able to travel more
  • Have my debts paid off by now
  • I should have a better job

And so on and so on.  (I’m tired of listing examples to be honest)

Only You Can Decide:

You know what?  Maybe you are right.  Maybe you should have more in your account, not living off your line of credit, or have your student loan paid off.

But “shoulding” all over yourself doesn’t make it any better.  All you are doing is giving yourself “should” for your past actions.  That doesn’t help anyone unless you use that reflection and frustration and make a change to your life.

The next time you “should” on yourself use that to reflect with what you aren’t really happy about.

Do Something!

Feel like you should have more saved for retirement?  Think about what your options are.

  • What are you going to change in your budget to add more to your retirement fund?
  • How are your returns doing? Too much profit being eaten up by fees?
  • Are you taking advantages of any work matching programs? How can you start.

When you feel unhappy about your situation use that as an opportunity to reflect and make changes so you don’t have to keep “shoulding” all over yourself next year too.  The best advice I can give is ask yourself a lot of questions to really examine the situation.  Statements don’t invoke change.

I should have my student loans paid off.


How can I have my student loans paid off?

See the difference?  That change and reflection is going to drive changes not the “shoulding.”

Don’t Push Too Hard:

Another thing worth of note.  Sometimes we are really hard on ourselves when there is nothing we can do to change past actions and as a result our current situation.  More often than not we are making the best decisions we can at the time with the information that we have.

That can be hard for Type-A nut job people (myself included).  People who tend to blame themselves for their failures are most at risk for this thinking.  It’s not helpful and it just causes you to spin.  Sometimes the best decisions you could have made don’t work out the way you want them to.  Remember all you can do is move forward using the past actions and experiences to shape your future.

Remember stop “shoulding” all over yourself.  You’re making a mess of your mental state that way.  There is no janitor to clean up your “shouldly” mental state.

When was the last time you “shoulded” all over yourself? What would you do different next time?  How are you learning and making changes?


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