Are You Where You "Should" Be Right Now?

Lost on the trail in Pacific Palisades

3 Ways to Stop “Should-ing” On Yourself!

 I am inspired to write this blog post by a conversation I had this morning with a client on the eve of a mid-30’s birthday. She is a bit distressed by all the things that she thought would have happened by this birthday, but haven’t. This is a conversation I’ve been having a lot lately, actually. We all have ideas in our head, often just below our conscious awareness, of what each stage of our lives should look like. When we actually get there, reality rarely matches the construct we’ve been carrying around as “truth”. Some of the “shoulds” I hear are:

owning a house in Venice Beach

By now I should:

1.     Be in a relationship

2.     Own a house

3.     Be engaged, or even married

4.     Have lost that extra weight

5.     Have run a marathon

6.     Be in a management role

7.     Have success in my field

8.     Have started my own company

9.     Have sold my own company

10.  Have figured out what I want to do with my life

11.  Have figured out my finances

12.  Have a substantial savings/investment account

13.  Have gotten my s**t together (whatever that means!!)

14.  Have stood up to my parents

15.  Have stood up to my boss

By now I should already know what I want, how to get it, and be well on the way to achieving it!

Happy Birthday in Venice Beach

A large percentage of the people who reach out to me to inquire about therapy are within a week or 2 of their birthday. It’s a time of re-evaluation—and a lot of people feel they are coming up short.

One of the first things I always do is to help people see all the things they’ve already accomplished. It’s so easy to discount the successes and focus on the negative—we are actually biologically programmed to do so! That mindset is what pushes us to succeed, and not to just lay back and accept whatever comes our way—or doesn’t! So, focusing on the negative isn’t 100% wrong, we just need to make sure it doesn’t destroy our self-image along the way!

Stop “should-ing” on yourself!!!

If you start to feel like you are being dragged down by disappointment in your own lack of “success”, however you define that, here are some things you can do:

1. Get Some Perspective

Write down what you think were the “shoulds” your parents had when they were your age. This can really help you see how twisted the whole concept of “should” can be. Some of my parents’ “shoulds” were:

·      You should be married by the time you graduate from college

Cleaning the House in Marina del Rey

·      You should not worry about a career if you plan to have kids, because

·      You should stay at home and not work if you have kids

·      You should own your own home

·      You should stay at a job for 20 years

·      You should do all the housework if you are the wife

·      You should be married if you live together

·      You should let your mother plan your wedding (after all, her mother planned hers!)

·      Here’s my favorite— You should always let the man win. (My mother actually said this to me!)


It is easy to see how most of these “shoulds” came from the cultural expectations of the time. They aren’t at all objective, they are just somebody’s idea of how the world is meant to look. (my parents were particularly retro in their outlook, but you get the point. Use your grandparents if it helps you see the lesson more easily)

2.  Question Your Assumptions

Write down your “shoulds”.

Seeing your ideas explicitly expressed in writing can take away a lot of their power. Start with the word, “everyone”. When you write, “Everyone should be married by their 35th birthday” it’s easier to see the logical fallacy, and realize that your own situation is not a “failure”, but simply a different path.

3.  Give Yourself Credit!

Make a list of your skills and talents

Cute dog in Marina del Rey

I don’t just mean things like playing the piano or running a 6-minute mile, but also things like throwing a great party, being a great listener for your friends, training your dog,  organizing your home, doing yoga, peace-making in your family, or knowing a lot about music, politics, fitness, art, nutrition, or where to get the best bargains. Think about what you find easy to do that is difficult for your friends. What do you do, that would never get done if you didn’t do it yourself. This will remind you not to take your own skills for granted—not everyone can do what you do!

Are You Still Feeling Lost or Unhappy?

Therapy can help you gain some perspective and learn to appreciate all you have done so far. If it’s helpful, I like to do some values-based goal-planning with my clients to help them clarify the steps to reach goals that are meaningful to them. I use talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and Attachment-Focused EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) to help my clients break free of patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that have been holding them back and blocking them from reaching their life goals.

If this sounds like it would be helpful to you, give me a call at 323-999-1537, or shoot me an email at, to schedule a free consultation so we can talk about your specific needs and how I can help!

passion led us here in Marina del Rey