why you should stop saying should



Should. It's a small word, but it has a pretty big impact on the way we think about ourselves and others. It's a word I don't contemplate often, but frequently use — and I don't think I'm alone in this. But, after reading Kate Bolick's Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own (part memoir, part cultural exploration of the unmarried woman that I found very eye-opening), I've spend a lot of time thinking about the word "should" — both in the context of my relationship status and in a more general sense. I've done a little digging into what "should" means for me (and for most of us), and I've been pretty surprised by how influential the concept of "should" really is. 

"Should" is a commonly used part of most of our lexicons, but it can become so pervasive that we don't even think about how (or how often) we're using it. How many times have you thought to yourself: I should be...  or S/he should...  You've probably had one of those thoughts already today. I certainly have! As someone who tends to buck anything I'm "supposed" to do (a result of falling into this Rebel category, I think), I find myself quite often thinking I should be doing something other than what I am doing. (For example: I should be writing right now. I should be more settled. I should be wearing real clothes and not sweatpants...) If you're like me, you probably experience quite a few "should" thoughts yourself. 

At first glance, "should" feels like it might be a positive, motivating word. It can guide us to do what's best for us... right? Well, the more I think about, the more it seems to me that "should" is a pretty negative word. In fact, it's almost the opposite of being positively present. It's focused on what's lacking (not very positive) and it's focused on something other than what's happening (not very present). Here are some of the reasons you might want to kick "should" out of your vocabulary...



It might sound like "should" would encourage you to focus on what needs to be done, guiding you toward your goals, but when most people think the word "should," there's a knee-jerk reaction to rebel against it, or at least feel resentful of it (if you're not the rebelling type). Rather than empowering you to do something else, should actually reinforces what you're not doing. When you think something like I should be spending more time with my partner, that thought is actually focused on what you're not doing instead of what you want to be doing. It's hard to get motivated to do something different when you're focused on what you're not doing right. 



Think about the last time you used the word "should." How did it feel? Usually, it makes you (or someone else) feel guilty, unhappy, or annoyed. If you're thinking about what you should've done in the past, you usually feel upset with yourself for not adhering to your future self's expectations. If you're thinking about what you should be doing now, you might feel guilty for not acting in accordance of what's expected of you. And if you're thinking about what others should be doing, you might end up feeling resentful. There are very few situations (if any) when the word "should" evokes a positive response. 



The word "should" is always focused on what should have happened in the past or what you expect to happen in the future, making it the exact opposite of staying present. Even when the word is referring to the present moment (as in, I should be working right now...), what it's literally means is: In the next moment, I should begin working because I'm not working right now. In the present moment, like it or not, you're not doing what you "should" be doing. A lack of acceptance for what's happening right now (regardless of whether that thing is positive or negative) is one of the best ways to become unhappy and stressed. 



Because "should" isn't a great motivator (see above), it often leaves you feeling frustrated when you're not doing what you think you should be doing. When you don't accomplish what you've tried to motivate yourself to do, you can feel as if you don't have control over your own actions. For example, if you think to yourself, I should stop reading and get to work, but you keep reading anyway, it feels as if you're not in control. Because "should" takes your focus away from your current actions, it takes away from the freedom to do what you want to do (even if that activity isn't what's expected of you). 



One of the biggest downsides of the word "should" is that it doesn't allow you to accept what is. When you think something or someone should be different, you're not focusing on what's actually happening. You're contradicting what is, for no purpose other than to fuel your own expectations. This also applies to inner "shoulds," like, I shouldn't be feeling jealous of my best friend, or I should be happy for him even though I'm very angry with him. Instead of expecting yourself to feel a certain way (and labeling those feelings as good or bad), what if you just accepted them for what they are? What if instead of challenging those feelings, you accepted them and looked at them more closely for clues about who you are



Just as "should" contradicts the present moment, it also negates self-love. Focusing on "should," you're taking a step away from loving yourself. You're focusing on aspects of yourself that could be rather loving what already is. When you use the word "should," you're not embracing a true acceptance of yourself (including the parts you don't love...). Should is like a judging pair of eyes, looking at you disapprovingly. With the word "should," you're casting judgment on yourself and, more often than not, you're devaluing yourself by allowing feelings of "less than" to creep into your consciousness. 



Should isn't just about what you think you should be doing — it's also used frequently when it comes to what you think others should be doing, and this can cause some major problems in relationships. It's normal to have expectations of others, but when your relationships are centered around these expectations (as so many are), this can cause some major problems. What would happen if you were to love without expectation? What would your relationships be like if you removed the word "should"? Should puts a lot of pressure on relationships and often doesn't add anything worthwhile.



Instead of focusing on what's been done, "should" focuses on what could be done differently. What if, instead of focusing on what you want to do, you focus on what you've done? I recently started tracking what I've accomplished each day alongside my to-do list and it's been so interesting to see how much I actually accomplish on the days I feel like I've "done nothing." Even when you don't feel as if you've adhered to others expectations (or your own), there are many, many things you've done well. Should doesn't let you focus on those, which is another reason you might be better off without it! 


Okay, so now you probably see what a negative impact should can have on your thoughts and your life. But what are you supposed to do about it if you find yourself using the dreaded "s" word? How are you supposed to get things accomplished without knowing what you "should" be doing? Here are some of the best tips I've found...

  1. Don't beat yourself up for "shoulds."

    They're normal and they're a really hard habit to break. When you find yourself saying the s-word, pause for a moment and take notice of it. Recognize that it's been said and that it means you're focusing on something other than the present moment. Then move forward to the next steps. 

  2. Focus on the benefits of doing what you "should."

    Inspired by this great article on Tiny Buddha, this tip is about focusing on the benefits of doing something other than what you're currently doing. For example, if you find yourself saying, I should be more social, reframe that "should" to focus on the benefits and think instead, I feel really good when I hang out with my friends and it's nice to get out of the house once and awhile. Focusing on the benefits you'll receive is much better than focusing on what you're lacking or not doing. 

  3. Explore what's beyond the "should."

    Sometimes "should" has a good purpose, but sometimes it exists because it's part of someone else's purpose (or just a result of general societal pressure to be a certain way). When you feel a should coming on, look at it closely to see if it adds value to your life. Ask yourself why you feel you should do something. Sometimes you're seeking something basic (like love) in a roundabout way. "Should" is often a sign of inner conflict and it's something that should be looked into, not immediately dismissed. 

  4. Change the "sh" to a "c" or a "w."

    This Psychology Today article notes that "should" leads to feelings of anxiety, stress, and lack of control, while the words "could" or "would" are motivating and encourage a take-charge attitude. Changing a couple of letters works especially well when dealing with external shoulds. For example, saying to your partner, It would be great if you could take out the trash is going to be much more effective than You should be taking out the trash. "Could" and "would" encourage autonomy and freedom, two things that are actually great motivators. 

Most of us have the word "should" pretty engrained in how we think and talk, making it a difficult word to completely remove from our lives, but if we're open to being aware of how we use it (and when), we'll be more likely to cut down on the amount of "should"s in our lives (or at least understand why we have the "should"s we do!). Think about what your "shoulds" are and see if you can reframe them in a positive (and more productive!) way.  



Want to empower yourself with some serious self-love and acceptance? Start loving yourself (or increase the love you already have for yourself!) with the inspiration and motivation found in Loving Your Self: An Empowering Workbook for Increasing Self-LoveFilled with uplifting encouragement, thought-provoking questions, and engaging exercises, Loving Your Self is an essential tool for mastering the art of self-love. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own copy here.

positively present picks: october 2, 2015




"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."

F. Scott Fitzgerald



A Manifesto for the Doer's : love this all-in attitude!

Self Care is a Divine Responsibility : yes yes yes for self-love

12 Little Know Laws of Happiness : some of these are life-changing

Fall Favorites : little doodles of things I love about autumn

How to Love Your Work : ... even when you don't love your work

4 Ways to Embrace Autumn's Arrival : the most wonderful time of the year!

Stop Others' Toxic Behavior from Poisoning You : learn to use your shield

100 Things to Do Before You Die : love this great round-up

Little Wolf : awww, this painting of a baby wolf is so adorable

When Someone Shows You Who They Are, Believe Them : such truth

20 Quotes That'll Inspire You to Be Yourself : stay true to you

Lisa Frank : lovin' this insightful interview with Lisa Frank

Mindfulness Myths Busted : don't let these stand in your way

Writing Projects You Can Finish in a Day : love these creative ideas



Listen to this playlist on YouTube.

"Blank Space" (Cover) — Ryan Adams
"Patience" — Eden Fox
"3AM" — RAC ft. Katie Herzig
"Revolution" — The Gardner & the Tree
"Let It Go" — Hailee Steinfeld
"Alive"— Sia
"Magnets" — Disclosure ft. Lorde
"Ease" — Troye Sivan
"Gone" — JR JR
"Leave a Trace" — Chvrches



Check out my reading list on GoodReads.

Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own
Kate Bolick

The Conditions of Love 
Dale M. Kushner

In Progress:
See Inside a Lettering Artist's Sketchbook
and Process, from Pencil to Vector

Jessica Hische


I wrote a book too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life
Dani DiPirro

the best self-love resources


This post is part of Just Love Yourself Month, an exciting new addition to the Positively Present! This month of self-love is inspired by my new workbook, Loving Your Self, which was designed to empower and inspire self-love. Learn more (and pick up your copy!) here


It's the end of Just Love Yourself Month here at Positively Present, and all month long we've been talking about the best ways to embrace self-love. Loving yourself can be a really big challenge, no matter who you are, so I wanted to end the month with a round-up of resources to help you whenever you feel like you're struggling in the self-love department. 

Curated from my own self-love journey and some serious self-love research, the list below includes websites, books, e-books, courses, articles (and more!) that have helped me or could help you experience more self-love in my life. It's a lot of information, but I hope you'll come back to it any time you're in need of a self-love boost! 



Danielle LaPorte : a self-loving guru's amazing advice

Tiny Buddha : self-love (and life!) inspiration

Anastasia Amour : no bullshit body image advice

Hiya Tootsie : bold inspiration for out-of-the-box dreaming

The Pep Talk Generator : a perfect pick-me-up site

Abundance Tapestry : great self-love articles and more

Operation Beautiful : put an end negative self-talk

Self Compassion : learn to embrace compassion

Madly In Love With Me : a resource reclaiming self-love 

Self-Esteem Project : Dove's mission to improve self-esteem



Loving What Is : a life-changing book on acceptance

The Desire Map : a book for creating meaningful goals

How to Love Yourself : a guide for getting started on self-love

Reform Your Inner Mean Girl : end the self-bullying

Madly in Love with Me : how to become your own best friend

Art Doodle Love : a creative journal for self-discovery

The Self-Esteem Workbook : use this to find your awesomeness

Boundaries : a book for setting healthy boundaries

Tiny Buddha's Guide to Loving Yourself : a book of self-love wisdom

Inside Out : a new book from Anastasia Amour in November

Learning to Love Yourself : a workbook for unconditional self-love

The Gifts of Imperfection : a book for embracing who you are

Spirit Junkie : a book for radical self-love and miracles

Love Yourself, Heal Your Life : a must-read self-love tome

Choosing Me Before We : learn to put yourself first

Love Who You Are : a little book of self-love inspiration



Loving Your Self : a workbook for increasing self-love

Finding Your Self : a workbook for soul-searching self-discovery 

21-Day Self-Love Challenge : use this to create a habit of self-love

The ABCs of Self-Love : e-book inspiration for loving yourself

Self-Compassion : a guide for mindful compassion and self-love

Desire Map Workbook : a digital workbook for self-searching



Radical Self-Love Letters : self-love delivered right to your in-box

Pinterest / Love Yourself : my on-going round-up of self-love

The Self-Esteem Course : a 12-week self-esteem booster

Radical Self-Love Bible School : I did this and loved it

Self-Love Bootcamp : get yourself in self-loving gear

The Self Love Revolution : an 8-week course on self-worth

Desire Map Graphic Maker : pretty images of what you want

Truthbomb Card Deck : these cards are so self-love inspiring

Everyday Self-Love : a course to help build daily self-love 

The Fierce Love Course : for activating your best self

Free (!) Self-Confidence Course : a self-esteem booster 

Unlock Your Courage Toolkit : another great, free resource

Self-Love Reminders : a free printable I created years ago



Speak Positively about Yourself : with a downloadable list of inspiring words

10 Easy Ways to Love Yourself More Today : start self-love now

Are You Who You Want to Be? : plus a free permission slip printable!

Self-Love Quotes : get inspired with these GoodReads quotes

55 Ways to Love Your Gorgeous Self : so many self-love tips here

Simple Ways to Love Yourself Again : if you've lost that lovin' feeling

How to Respect Yourself : don't ever settle for less than the best

(Self) Love is a Battlefield : an inspiring read on self-love

30 Ways to Love Yourself : an excellent round-up of tips

How to Embrace Imperfections : 4 great tips for acceptance

100 Questions : discover more about you with this Q&A

Positively Present / Self-Love : a collection of all my self-love posts


It's my sincerest hope that this round of books, inspiration, articles, etc. will help you on your own self-love journey. Self-love is such an important aspect of living a positive, present life, but most of us live in societies that work hard to prevent us from truly loving who we are. If we want self-love, we have to work for it and keep working on it every single day.

If you know of any great self-love resources, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below and I'll try to add them to this list!   

positively present picks: september 25, 2015




"Fall has always been my favorite season.
The time when everything bursts with its last beauty,
as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale."

Lauren DeStefano



Autumn Obsession : in case you didn't know... I love autumn!

Book-Related Questions for Me? : visit my Ask the Author page and ask away

4 Recommendations from Positive Psychology : all 4 are so important

DesignLoveFest Cell Phone Cases : these are all so pretty

Loving Your Self : wow! this is my most popular workbook! thanks!
Get your copy + increase your self love right here

6 Secrets to a Better Love Life : great positive tips in this article

When We Hold onto Relationships that Hurt Us : and read this too

99 of the Best Things in the World : this list made me smile

Things Happy People Never Forget : keep these five things in mind

Mental Minimalism : I love this concept of mental less

55 Ways to Love Your Gorgeous Self Now : yes! tons of self-love!

Constellations Case : lovin' this phone case on Society6

No Regrets : you won't regret putting the phone down + living

7 Styles of Decision Making : very interesting to think about

How Negative Thinking Changes Your Brain : whoa. powerful. 

No Makes Way for Yes : there is power in the word "no"

Self-Discovery Tools : check out my favorites on The Girl Who Knows



Listen to this playlist on YouTube.

"Stay for the Night" — Luhx
"What Do You Mean?" (cover) — Mackenzie Johnson
"Music to Watch Boys To" — Lana Del Ray
"Today's the Day" — P!nk
"Roman Holiday" — Halsey
"Bite"— Troye Sivan
"Wildfire" — The Mynabirds
"On My Mind" — Ellie Goulding
"Thoughts" — Simen Mitlid
"Smile" (Cover) — Lana Del Ray



Check out my reading list on GoodReads.

All That Is
James Salter

In Progress:
See Inside a Lettering Artist's Sketchbook
and Process, from Pencil to Vector

Jessica Hische

Making a Life of One's Own

Kate Bolick


I wrote a book too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life
Dani DiPirro

JLY month : 100 questions to discover yourself


This post is part of Just Love Yourself Month, an exciting new addition to the Positively Present! This month of self-love is inspired by my new workbook, Loving Your Self, which was designed to empower and inspire self-love. Learn more (and pick up your copy!) here.  This post is also part of the 2015 Word of the Month series, based on the monthly theme featured in the Every Day Matters 2015 Diary I designed for Watkins Publishing. In the planner, each month has a theme highlighted in the weekly illustrations, quotes, and activities. This month's theme is LEARN. (Order your 2016 Diary here!) 


If someone asked you, "Do you know who you are?" you'd probably quickly respond with, "Yes, of course I do!" We all know ourselves to some extent, but we're always growing and changing and, as a result, sometimes we're not really paying attention to who we are and what matters most to us. We're often to busy to worry about questioning the essence of who we are (or, in some cases, we don't necessary want to take the time to figure it out), but understanding yourself — learning about who you are — is an important part of loving yourself. 

Of course, like so many worthwhile pursuits, this isn't a simple task. Learning about yourself isn't something you can do in an afternoon. Who You Are isn't a book you can pull off the shelf and skim through for answers. (Well, it probably is a book title, but not a book written about you and what it means to be you.) Learning about yourself takes time and interest and dedication. It also takes overcoming the notion that such an act would be self-indulgent and maybe even selfish. 

Self-knowledge is a stepping stone to self-love. And self-love is not selfish

How, you might be wondering, does one go about attaining this self-knowledge? The trick is to remember that you already have all of the information — it's within you! — but you have to access it. And that's the tricky part. For me, I've found the best way to become more knowledgable about myself is to engage in activities that make me think about what I value, what I like, and what I dislike. (Inspired by this, I created two workbooks that are great resources for self-knowledge: Finding Your Self and Loving Your Self.) In addition to activities like the ones found in these workbooks, I've found that answering questions is one of the best ways to uncover self-knowledge. 

Do you remember those emails and IMs that people used to send around back in the day? They were filled with a list of questions, things like: Do you have a crush on someone right now? Pepsi or Coke? Have you ever been drink? What's your favorite color? They were silly little questionnaires, but for some reason, I always enjoyed answering the questions, even I only answered them in my head and didn't type my replies on the screen. I realize now that answering these questions was a way to better understand myself (albeit on a very basic level). The questions prompted me to think about what was going on in my life, as well as my likes and dislikes. 

Lately I've seen a resurgence of these questions on Tumblr. It makes me think that, no matter what the media, teens will find a way to use silly questionnaires to connect with one another and tune in to what matters to them. As I've been scrolling through my dashboard and these lists of questions come up, I find myself reading through them and mentally replying, just like I did when I was younger. Even if the questions aren't all that meaningful, somehow the answers are. They provide an outlet for self-connection and inner knowledge. Plus, it's kinda just fun. 

As silly as these little Q&A posts are, I've found myself really enjoying them and realized that, even as an adult, they allow me to learn things about myself and think about topics I might not have given much thought to before. I've created a list of some questions — some thought-provoking, some less so — to prompt you to think about who you are and what matters to you. 

You can scan them briefly and think about quick, one-word replies, or you can print them out (see below for the PDF version), print them out, and spend some time really thinking about the answers. Either way, they're bound to make you think and provide you with some fresh insights on what it means to be you. 

  1. Are you generally optimistic or pessimistic? 
  2. What would you change about yourself if you could?
  3. What apps do you use most often?
  4. What's the nicest compliment you've ever received?
  5. If you were a color, what would you be?
  6. What three things could you not live without?
  7. What was the last argument you had about?
  8. How did you meet your best friend?
  9. Do you have any collections?
  10. What would you never want to change? 
  11. What are your favorite words?
  12. Do you think everything will work out for the best?
  13. Who did you last say "I love you" to?
  14. What word (or sound) makes you cringe?
  15. Do you always finish work on time?
  16. Where did you take your first vacation?
  17. Would you be described as spontaneous?
  18. Do you read your horoscope?
  19. If you could be an emoji, what would you be?
  20. How do you react to criticism?
  21. Would you rather be too hot or too cold?
  22. Do you believe in ghosts/spirits?
  23. How long does it take you to get ready? 
  24. Do you have a good relationship with your parents?
  25. Is there someone that you miss?
  26. Do you regret anything you've done?
  27. Would you live in a book/film if you could?
  28. How would you prefer to die?
  29. What do you think people notice about your first?
  30. Who knows you better than anyone?
  31. What one word describes how you're feeling right now?
  32. Are you often early, on time, or late?
  33. What scares you the most?
  34. Would you go back in time if you could?
  35. Do you believe in yourself?
  36. When was the last time you had a passionate kiss?
  37. Is it easier for you to forgive or to forget?
  38. Who is the most intelligent person you know?
  39. What was/is your best school subject?
  40. What's the most important quality in a partner?
  41. Are you in love right now?
  42. Have you ever broken someone’s heart?
  43. Do you enjoy playing board or video games?
  44. Who cares a lot about you?
  45. How would you spend a million dollars?
  46. What was the last dream you can recall about?
  47. Who was the last person who saw you cry?
  48. Do you give second chances?
  49. What's the last thing you did before bed last night?
  50. Which was the best year of your life?
  51. How do you feel about being naked?
  52. Do you believe everything happens for a reason?
  53. Could you live as a hermit?
  54. Would it be hard to kiss the last person you kissed?
  55. How do you feel when you wake up?
  56. Is dishonesty ever okay?
  57. Do you believe in love at first sight?
  58. What's your current relationship status?
  59. Are you religious? Spiritual?
  60. Who did you last have a deep conversation with?
  61. Do you like your name and/or nickname?
  62. To get to know you, what should someone read, watch, or listen to?
  63. What qualities do you admire in others? 
  64. How would you spend your ideal day?
  65. What five things do you spend the most time doing?
  66. What is the last song you heard?
  67. When did you last laugh really, really hard?
  68. Do you feel your outside appearance fairly represents the real you?
  69. What is one of your favorite quotes?
  70. If you could live anywhere, where would you live?
  71. What's the nicest thing you've ever done?
  72. Do you wish on stars, lucky numbers, eyelashes?
  73. What's your biggest pet peeve?
  74. How did you celebrate your last birthday?
  75. What age have you most enjoyed being?
  76. Why do you love your favorite author or musician?
  77. How do you feel about technology?
  78. What season brings you the most joy?
  79. Do you consider yourself detail-oriented?
  80. What TV show did you like best as a kid?
  81. Would you rather give a gift or receive a gift?
  82. Do often make jokes? 
  83. When did you last make a new friend?
  84. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
  85. Are you looking forward to something right now?
  86. Which website do you visit most often?
  87. Do you match the traits of your zodiac sign?
  88. Are you afraid of the dark?
  89. What is the most trouble you've gotten into?
  90. If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
  91. Would you rather give up TV or the internet?
  92. Have you changed a lot in the last decade?
  93. If you could have any talent, what would it be?
  94. What's the most painful loss you've experienced?
  95. When were you last embarrassed?
  96. Would you like to be famous? 
  97. Do you often sing in the shower?
  98. If you could see your future, would you want to?
  99. What is your earliest memory?
  100. What are you most grateful for in your life?



As I created these questions, I couldn't help but answer them myself and I found some of the answers pretty eye-opening. I hope that they've inspired you to think about what it means to have knowledge of yourself, and I hope you've gained some insights from these questions that you can carry with you as continue to learn more about who you are! 



Want to empower yourself with some serious self-love? Start loving yourself (or increase the love you already have for yourself!) with the inspiration and motivation found in Loving Your Self: An Empowering Workbook for Increasing Self-LoveFilled with uplifting encouragement, thought-provoking questions, and engaging exercises, Loving Your Self is an essential tool for mastering the art of self-love. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own copy here.