I am in a constant battle of the should-haves with myself. It’s the part of my internal, perfectionist self talk that is intolerant of mistakes, setbacks, or laziness. However, my should-have self talk never makes me feel better. In fact, it only ever makes me feel disappointed with myself. Like what I’ve done and am doing is not enough or good enough. These thoughts are unproductive, they perpetuate the bad habit battle of should-haves, and most of the time, are totally untrue.
I’ve been working on this type of thinking and negative self talk. It’s extremely hard to change the direction and patterns of your constant internal chatter. My battle with shoulda’s is the worst but I’ve been confronting it in two ways: giving them the time of day and countering them with more positive self talk.
Instead of focusing on what I should do, I need to count what I have done as something, and, if possible, turn should-haves into something actionable. One of my favorite sayings is “If it is important to you, you will find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.” So, for example, when I pass the ever-growing stack of books I’ve been meaning to read for months and think to myself for the millionth time “I should read those,” I will make a point of sitting down and giving my should-have 5 minutes of my time. I will ask myself how truly important it is to my life to complete and also how much energy/time it will take. My reading example requires carving out some concrete time every day to tackling a chapter or two but isn’t awful or hard because I really enjoy reading. My other most common example is letting stuff lay around the house that needs to be put in our basement for storage. I walk by such a pile and think “I should put that downstairs” but get distracted or am too lazy or plan to ask John to do it. It really isn’t so hard that I should be putting things like that off and making myself feel miserable over it.
Sometimes when my shoulda’s are really outlandish and unrealistic, I don’t even give them the time of day. I try to counter them with something more positive or supportive. For example, I often should-have over very generalized things (I should be better at technology, I should have more expertise in my field, I should be smarter, I should try harder). These things are way too general and unrealistic to get bent out of shape over. So, instead of letting them get me in a twist, I would counter them by saying: I’m doing the best I can, I don’t always have to be the expert, I could improve my skills in a few areas but it takes time and practice and I might not have that right now.
I think as I practice how I react to my should-have thoughts it will get easier and my negative self talk will hopefully lessen. Do you battle with should-haves? What do you do? How do you counter negative self talk?