Should Statements: How They Affect the Way You Think

Written by: Janine Mack – B Sc (Psychology)

Last update date : July 22, 2022

Table of Contents

Should Statements: How They Affect the Way You Think

  1. How Does It Develop?
  2. What Happens When You Make These Statements?
  3. How to Manage Should Statements.
  4. Final Note

Cognitive distortions (informally known as thinking traps) are thought patterns that are usually defined by their negative nature. A range of these exists, and ‘should statement’ is one of them. Often, words such as ‘should’ are used to imply that something has to be done. The word is impactful and conveys a sense of obligation. The thing is that although using it with yourself could make you do the job, sometimes it might not be all that helpful. Frequently telling yourself that you ‘should’ do something can make you feel pressured, stressed, anxious, and uneasy. Thinking in these ways places expectations on yourself. If these are unachieved, it affects the way you think and feels about yourself as well as how you behave.

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Table of Contents

Should Statements: How They Affect the Way You Think

  1. How Does It Develop?
  2. What Happens When You Make These Statements?
  3. How to Manage Should Statements.
  4. Final Note

Cognitive distortions (informally known as thinking traps) are thought patterns that are usually defined by their negative nature. A range of these exists, and ‘should statement’ is one of them. Often, words such as ‘should’ are used to imply that something has to be done. The word is impactful and conveys a sense of obligation. The thing is that although using it with yourself could make you do the job, sometimes it might not be all that helpful. Frequently telling yourself that you ‘should’ do something can make you feel pressured, stressed, anxious, and uneasy. Thinking in these ways places expectations on yourself. If these are unachieved, it affects the way you think and feels about yourself as well as how you behave.

Chapter 1:
How Does It Develop?

Thinking traps can stem from various factors. Some of the most common are:

Past experiences – Sometimes, what we’ve been through shapes our perceptions and thoughts. This often happens through reinforcement.

Mental health conditions – Illnesses such as depression and anxiety usually play major roles in the development of thinking traps.

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Chapter 2:
What Happens When You Make These Statements?

When ‘should’ is included in your self-talk, you’re telling yourself that you have to do something rather than that you ought to do it. Many believe it can act as motivation. However, this may not be the whole reality. Using the word ‘should’ can do more bad than good. For instance, it can bring about a lot of unpleasant feelings. This can negatively affect people because, for example, they may feel pressured to do it or anxious that they can’t. Furthermore, if they’re unable to do this, they might feel bad about themselves and experience feelings like defeat, shame, guilt, sadness. It can influence how they think of themselves. It could also shape their actions.

This thinking trap makes people have expectations that can be harmful to them. It can be adverse to their health, namely their psychological wellbeing. A lot of people don’t like being told what to do or feeling that they don’t have a choice. This is irrespective of whether it comes from others or themselves. ‘Should statements’ can do this. Even though it may not be the same for all, where not everyone experiences it, there is a potential for this to happen sometimes. It can be even harder for those who already suffer from anxiety or low self-esteem. For reasons like this, it’s important to address the cognitive distortion.

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Chapter 3:
How to Manage Should Statements.

If you’re looking to find help with the ‘should statements’ that come up in your mind from time to time, these tips can help. Try them and keep practising this. Consistent effort and practice are the keys. Even if something feels difficult to do, over time, it becomes more doable.

1. Write them down

One of the first steps towards making a change is knowing what needs changing in the first place. In this case, something that can help you with the process is making a record of whenever your mind produces a ‘should statement’. When we take the thoughts that are in our mind out of it- by writing, for example- we place it in front of us to see and re-read. This puts us in a better position to view our thoughts and form more rational judgments about them. For instance, when the thought that we should do something is in our minds, it can overpower our thinking and make us feel pressured to do it. We may feel like we have no other choice but to and might not see alternatives. Writing down our thoughts gives us better control of such thoughts. It also allows us to see the wider picture.

Furthermore, writing down our thoughts enables us to keep track of our progress. We can also see what needs working on. These are beneficial when trying to implement change. We can see what our most common ‘should statements’ are and if their frequency has decreased over time. If the records show they haven’t, then we’re aware of what needs improvement and can be more mindful about it going forward.

Overall, writing down your thoughts is a good practice and can be helpful in a range of ways.

2. Break down the way you think

‘Should statements’ are a type of thinking trap. This distorted thinking is known for its unrealistic and inaccurate nature. Due to this, going over and breaking down these thoughts can help to navigate and move past them. You’ll be able to identify what thoughts are realistic for you and doable and which aren’t. This thinking trap can cause unnecessary anxiety, so examining our thoughts in ways like this can prevent it.

3. Reframe these thoughts

When you notice the way you think, including the word ‘should’, instead of letting yourself become carried away by these thoughts, try to alter how they sound. Whenever you’re about to tell yourself that you should do something, stop the thought from going further. Then alter how it sounds. Doing this can be a helpful way not only to limit your should statement but also to adopt better-thought patterns.

Language is very important. Using ‘should’ in or self-talk can often make us feel negative. Alternatives that are kinder and sound less harsh are the healthier option. Our minds will believe and react to what is directed at them. So instead of telling ourselves that we should do something, choose to say that we would like to do it or it’s what we prefer to do. Being kinder to yourself and your abilities can go a long way. Additionally, you can also change the way you think about what you have to do. Instead of telling yourself that you should do it, tell yourself that you get to do it. This can help because it shifts the perspective as well as the extent to which we have control of the situation.

4. Remember how it can impact your life.

It’s a fact that thinking traps are able to have an influence on various areas of people’s lives. It can also impact how we live life too. With ‘should statements’, sometimes the things that you tell yourself you should be doing are not always what you want to be doing. For example, maybe you want to voice an idea, but you think you should keep it to yourself because of how others may receive it. You may want to do certain things, but factors such as other people or past experiences may be stopping you. This could make you unhappy because it poses restrictions in some areas of your life.

Of course, telling ourselves that we should (or should not) do certain things is helpful and even needed sometimes. However, there’s a limit to anything. Beyond it, things can go from being helpful to the opposite. We mustn’t let should‘s control our lives. Reminding yourself not to let should statements get the better of you and control your life can prove to be quite helpful. It can make you strive to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

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Chapter 4:
Final Note

Thinking traps aren’t uncommon and develop in many of us. It’s important to manage them; otherwise, they can continue to cause many hardships. Although doing so has its challenges nevertheless it is possible. With practice, it becomes easier to notice these unhelpful thoughts and move away from them. Over time the hold that ‘should statement’ have on you lessens. The methods listed above are some ways to help someone who faces this thinking trap know where to start. There are plenty of other free resources that tell people how to deal with their problems, However, for some, implementing change by themselves can be a task, and that’s understandable. In times especially like this, it’s advisable to seek the help of a professional. They can help you move through your problems and learn helpful tools and techniques. Always remember that you’re not alone and that help is available. Good luck!

Reviews 4.1

Learn evidence-based scientific ways of coping with chronic fatigue

99 Lessons

3 hours

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

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