The Counseling Sessions Part 1: "Stop shoulding on yourself and quit..."



on yourself and quit



I have been in counseling four times during my 36 year life-span. But, I had never heard those words from a counselor’s mouth before.

Nick and I sat on the couch across from our counselor – her feet resting on a stool. Her room was decorated with all sorts of silk flowers and deeply wise sayings

deemed worthy enough to frame and hang on the office walls.

We looked at each other and laughed as this petite Christian counselor gave us the sage advice we had flown half-way around the planet for.

“Seriously. Stop shoulding on yourself and quit musterbating. Remove the words ‘should’ and ‘must’ from your vocabulary.”

I guess I always saw "should" and "must" as good words. Words, that when repeated enough within our inner psyche, whip our lazy selves into shape and into some worthy action or discipline.

I’m sure there are times when these words have made me do something noble, but at what cost?

At the root of these words is a deep foundation of guilt and failure– that we are not good enough, that we should be different; that if we were the desired version of ourselves, these good deeds would flow from us automatically.

Although doing things out of guilt works for a while, eventually it leaves us gasping for some sort of freedom.

My entire life, I’ve had to fight hard to keep in a healthy weight range for my body. I have a lot of things going against me. Genetically, I am full and curvy. I have a slow thyroid. I have something called PCOS that has a side-effect of being overweight.

I’ve eaten healthy since I was 14. I’ve exercised, without fail, 3 – 6 times a week since I was a teenager. And all of that is barely enough to keep my weight within normal range. My life has been chocked full of inner voices that tell me what I should not eat or what I must do to get my weight under control.

The more I


on myself in regard to my eating, the more it produces the opposite of the desired reaction. I successfully finish 5 days of pure eating that I can be proud of, and then comes the binge day. All of the guilt and mental deprivation I have given myself eventually escapes in one wild fury of spoon to ice cream container – not even really enjoying or savoring the taste of each bite. Rather, I am drowning my guilt in an explosion of “freedom.”

A freedom that actually leaves me feeling horrible.

But, the opposite happens when I diet or exercise because I value the results. Rather than seeing it as a punishment I have to bear due to bad genetics, I eat healthy because I


to believe that I am worth it, my future is worth it, and my kids are worth it. And miraculously, when I am motivated by this truth, I can approach the same container of ice cream with a small spoonful and the decision that my health is more than the temporary rush. I don’t feel like this is deprivation, but rather a gift to myself and future.

Dieting is an easy example. But, what happens when we should ourselves in the crucial areas of life?

I really should be this for my husband.

I must be a stay-at-home mom for my kids.

I should really try to be her good friend, even though we don’t click.

I should be further along in life by now – more influential, higher salary, more respected.

I must help them. If I don’t, no one else will.

True. There are some good statements listed above that are honorable – but only if done from a heart of true love and out of a well spring of who you were truly created to be.

Anything else is a fake. Just fake. Good works done out of a wretched heart.

People always sense fake.

People are always drawn to things done out of true love.

People run away from those they sense are not truly confident in who they are.

But, we are all drawn towards those who are completely secure in who they


and are


, and approach life with a humility and ease.

Free yourself. If you’re not the one who was meant to do, or be something that you “should” or “must” be, God created someone else in this world who is.

You were made to be you. They were made to be them. We are most valuable to others, to the world, and to God’s overall plan when we finally lay aside the heavy burden of guilt we have carried for so long, and just be ourselves.

Imperfect but accepting. Confident yet humble.

Others, who surround you and even love you, will also try to “should” on you. They may even have their own grown-up version of a crying, crazy-haired, feet-stamping tantrum; demanding that you become something they need or want. And in love,


in a spirit of love, we have to kindly turn, walk away, and be true to ourselves- the person God created us to be.  That is all He ever asked of us.  

Every night, I read a few books to my kids and watch them fall asleep. As I take one last chance to kiss their warm, calm cheeks I whisper a prayer.

God, help them to grow up to be confident, completely humble, and in love with You.

I don’t want them to live lives filled with shame,

or doubt,

or obligations.

Children, just be the complete beauty you were created to be. But be careful! Never find yourself staring in the mirror and admiring your own creation. May you always know where your true gifts originated. Love God, and He will teach you how to truly love others and the plan He made for you.

Big O and Little A, you were never made to remain seated in a messy pool of your own stinky “shoulds” and “musts.”

And neither were



This is the first post in a series of posts entitled "The Counseling Sessions."  I have learned so many excellent life lessons and skills through my times in a therapist's office that have changed me.  In my opinion, acknowledging the need for help is always a badge of courage; a hope that we truly are meant to be better.  Perhaps something I've learned along the way can help spur you on as well.***