Stop ‘shoulding’ on yourself

We’ve all got a little soundtrack in our head, muttering away, talking to us, almost constantly. Yes, you have: the one that’s saying to you right now, “monologue in my head???? What’s she on about now?” – that one.

It’s worth pausing to pay it some attention now and again. Why? Because that constant commentator can be positive, as in, “Woo hoo! That went well!”. Or it can be negative, as in, “I really should get up earlier”, “I ought to get that done”, and worse, “I’m just rubbish at [insert whatever it tells you you’re rubbish at here]”.

A neat phrase to describe the negative soundtrack is we’re ‘shoulding on ourselves’ – say it aloud and you’ll get my drift. OK, maybe you do need to get up earlier – but there is a much more positive way that you can frame it to yourself than dishing out constant self-flagellation.

If we’re constantly giving ourselves a beating, it can become corrosive. We can completely lose sight of what we’re good at, what’s going well for us and what we’re grateful for. It can become hard to find anything positive in our day. Day in, year out.

All is not lost. It’s entirely possible to change that soundtrack playing in our head. It simply takes awareness, retraining and practice.

  • Notice what your inner soundtrack says when things go well – are you lavishing praise on yourself or saying you got away with it?
  • Notice what the soundtrack says when things don’t go so well – a verbal beating or wise words to learn from the experience?
  • Develop the habit of identifying all the things that are going well, particularly those that are down to you. If needs be, write them down each day.
  • Try ‘shall’ instead of ‘should’ – it signals intent without being onerous.
  • Congratulate yourself when you take action.
  • And notice too the little random things that make you smile: a fellow passenger’s ridiculous shoes did it for me this morning; daffodils are always a winner; hearing a much-loved song.

Start giving yourself a cuddle instead of a beating.

You may find this post useful: ‘Tips to boost your confidence – stop dreaming and start doing’


Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’ and ‘How to be Zoomly at work’


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