Guilt, Shame, + Perfectionism


How often do you find yourself saying you should do something?

I should clean the kitchen.
I should get out more.
I should have said that differently.

I recently heard someone say that "Should is could with shame attached." I don't know who first said this, but I believe it's true.

The word could indicates possibility. Options. Choice. It's more about your own decision and judgment, and not someone else's. 

Let's take a look at how those phrases sound with could instead of should:

I could clean the kitchen, but it's not my priority today. OR...
I could clean the kitchen after I cook dinner.

I could get out more, but I like staying home. OR...
I could get out more since I'd like to meet some new people, so I'm going to make that a goal.

I could have said that differently, but I like the words I chose. OR...
I could have said that differently, so I'm going to follow up with them to clarify what I meant.

See how those are different? There's a sense of power and control with could. When you say you should do something, you attach feelings of unworthiness. Saying could in each of these cases turns it around so that it's based on your own values and choices. You get to decide.

Guilt vs. Shame

Guilt and shame are sometimes used in place of each other. You feel guilty when you don't live up to your own set of values. In a previous blog post, I challenged you to start filtering everything through your own set of values. Knowing your own values is one of the first steps to help you figure out if you're feeling guilt or shame.

Here's what Brené Brown, a shame researcher, says about the difference in shame and guilt:

I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.

I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. (Source)

Do you see the difference there? Guilt is attached to your own values, and shame is attached to unworthiness

How is perfectionism related to shame?

You may think it's really perfectionism that you battle, and not shame. Here's Brené Brown's definition of perfectionism:

Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: “If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame. (Source)

Did you catch that? SHAME. There it is again! I wrote about what your perfectionism is really about here. Much of it is about acceptance. In other words, it's about what you should do.

Empower yourself to stop the SHOULD.

To help you break the pattern of "should", I have a challenge for you this week.

For the next five days, keep a record of every time you say or think you should do something, or should've done something. Write it down. Keep a tally. Make a voice note. Make yourself aware of how often you default to "shoulding" all over yourself. Then, when you catch yourself, think about how you can rephrase that so it's connected to YOUR values. Here are some ideas on alternate phrasing you can use:

I want to...
I will...
I don't want to...
I can...
I choose to...

Connect your new phrases to your values by considering the why behind each statement. Sometimes we can drop the idea all together when we figure out it's not attached to our values at all!

Take your power back by getting rid of should!

If you try this challenge, comment below and let me know how it goes for you. What revelations did you have? Was it difficult or easy to remove "should" from your vocabulary? 

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