When you think about the frustrations you have with your body, your relationship with food, your weight loss, or yourself as a human, you will notice that the frustration you feel is based on the expectations you have about how things should be.
“I should weigh a certain amount.”
“I should be a certain size.”
“I should not crave sugar.”
“I should be able to lose weight quickly.”
“It should feel easy.”
“I should be patient with my children and not yell.”
“I should be patient with my children and not yell.”
“I should get to bed earlier.”
So many “shoulds.” I bet if you took the time, you could list hundreds of shoulds that govern how you think, feel, and show up.
But have you ever questioned where those shoulds came from? I love this quote from Stephen Covey:
“Frustration is a function of our expectations, and our expectations are often a reflection of the social mirror rather than our own values and priorities.”
We think our willpower, genetics, temperament, our kids, or other people are the problem. They are the reason we can’t lose weight and why we feel frustrated with our bodies and our lives.
But it is our expectations that are the problem.
Frustration comes from unmet expectations
We are all walking around, seeing life through our own “should lenses.” These lenses are shaped by the way we were raised, our parents’ beliefs, our culture, our families. We see ourselves and the world through this lens of expectation, which puts us in an almost constant argument with reality.
We are rarely looking at who we are and what is, and are instead focused on who we aren’t and what isn’t.
What creates the feelings is the expectation that it should be different than it is.
“I should be able to eat what I want.”
You may notice there are people in the world who eat without much thought, and remain at their natural weight. If they want a donut, they eat it. If they want to order french toast for breakfast or drink Coke or hit Taco Bell at 11pm, they do it. And they don’t gain weight.
You think the thought, “I should be able to eat what I want and not gain weight too.” But the reality is, that is not how your body functions. Arguing with this reality is the same as me thinking I should be 5’10 and have naturally curly hair when I am actually 5’3 and my hair is bone straight.
I can think, “I should be different than I am,” but it doesn’t change things and only causes me to feel frustration and envy.
Learning how to change your habits and relationship with food can feel challenging. Especially when you are using willpower to white-knuckle it through the process.
“Losing weight should be easier.”
I’m sure many of you have felt this struggle and thought “Losing weight should be easier.” Through this “should lens,” the struggle is magnified and it’s all we can see. We lose sight of why we’re doing it, of what is on the other side of the struggle.
And most of us either decide to take extreme measures like eating only grapefruit or taking medication to lose weight — or we give up as a result of the hard.
The reality is, changing our habits and relationship with food takes, time, effort, and patience. Expecting it to come easily or quickly just causes frustration and discouragement (which are not typically feelings that drive us to keep going).
“I should have a morning routine”
Do you have any other life improvements you want to make based on shoulds?
“I should work out everyday.”
“I should meditate.”
“I should be taking time for myself.”
I have one I have been wrestling with: I should have a better morning routine. This whole emphasis on a morning routine thing is fairly new, but it seems like everyone who’s anyone is talking about how their morning routine changed everything and is the key to their success, happiness, and wellbeing.
And I want more success, happiness, and wellbeing! I should have a morning routine!
In my mind, this is what that looks like: I get up at 4am. and meditate, do yoga, and watch the sunrise in silence as I ponder my existence. And then I journal, take my supplements, and go for a run on the beach to get fresh air and do some reading. Then I do an avocado face mask and a body scrub… and I am ready to take on my day!!
What my morning is actually like
The reality of my life looks very different. First of all, I don’t live near the beach. Second of all, that would take me like, six hours. And lastly, I don’t live by myself on an island. I live in a house with a puppy. That alone should tell you a lot.
I also live with another dog and four other humans, half of whom are teenagers and one who is my husband, and they rely on me for things and they like to have conversations with me.
Many nights I go to bed at 11pm after I’ve driven kids to dance and done carpool and everyone is tucked in and I have spent some time watching mindless TV and chatting with my husband. I value sleep and time with them over getting up at 4 am on those nights.
So my morning routine looks more like some days I get up and go work out at Orangetheory, most days I sleep until it’s time to get up and let my puppy out and get my daughter up for school. I help her get ready, get her lunch made, and get her to the bus, and then I get myself showered and ready to coach my clients.
Sometimes I listen to a podcast while I get ready. I make time some days to meditate. I make time some days to go for a walk for some fresh air. Some days I just take deep breaths of fresh air as I walk the 20 steps out to my office. I make time some days to read. I make time most days to do thought work [link] and journaling.
But what has been happening a lot lately is really just me feeling frustrated and inadequate because I keep thinking: “I should have a better morning routine.”
Stop attaching your actions to your worth
Typically the fine print of our shoulds is that “I should…” because good moms, good people, valuable humans do these things. And so if we also do these things, our worth and value will be increased.
My belief is that successful people have morning routines. I value success, and so the story my brain wants to convince me is true is that I should have a morning routine to be valuable.
The urgency and importance and subsequent pain we feel around our shoulds is a result of these shoulds being tethered to our worth and value. Many of our shoulds feel like a moral necessity — I should be kind, I should be unselfish, I should be whatever… in order to be good.
Because of this, we see our shoulds as noble and moral — keeping us in line, showing us what’s “right”. But clinging to these shoulds to make us better is like eating a little bit of poison everyday thinking we will build up a tolerance and it will make us stronger. The reality is, it just keeps us sick.
Choose acceptance instead
The antidote to the poison of shoulds is acceptance. Taking off the lens of “should” and seeing you and your life for what they currently are.
Instead of the thought, “I should be…” and observing what you currently aren’t, choose the thought “I am…” and see what you currently are.
Acceptance does not mean resignation and stagnation like most of us think it will.
We think if we look at our lives and see them for what they are and accept it, we will then have no motivation to make any changes or improvements. We don’t have to choose to believe, “This is just who I am,” or “It is what it is,” with vitriol and disgust.
We can choose to think: “This is who I am right now,” with compassion and hope. Then choose on purpose to design a life full of thoughts that begin with “I want…” and “I will.”
How to identify and question your expectations
So where do we begin to see things differently? How do we take off these should lenses?
First, you have to identify your shoulds.
And then get to work questioning them.
What shoulds do you see showing up in your life? Go through the different areas of your life and notice what your brain tells you should be different than it actually is.
Where do your shoulds come from? Try to think back to where this should originated. We want to consider the source.
Why should I be this way, look this way, etc.?
Why is it better?
Who says? Who decided this was better? Why do I value their thoughts over mine?
Do I want to keep believing it?
If you’re searching for a realistic, permanent weight loss solution that will actually work this time, learn more about my weight loss coaching program.