Do you have any regrets? Do you live your life saying, “If only I had done that one thing, surely my life would have been so much better.” When looking back on your life, your accomplishments, do you find yourself saying things like, “I should have done that one thing in my life, and things would have turned out differently.”
Go ahead and say out loud right now: I should have done … (fill in the blank). How does it feel? Take a moment to sit and experience not only the emotion that comes up for you, but the physical sensations that come when you say the S-word — should.
It doesn’t feel very good, does it?
The word should causes you to feel ashamed. Hearing it in reference to the choices you’ve made in your life makes you not only feel shame for your past decisions but also toward who you are today. Not only were your past decisions bad, but you’re bad, too — OUCH!
This is a central truth: You are not a bad person because you made a bad decision. Your actions do not define you in that way.
How to avoid allowing one bad decision to lead you into believing you are a bad person? You have to act quickly to transform the internal shame instinct. Every time (yes every time), you use the word should, replace it with could and watch what happens.
Try it right now: take the should statement you said aloud before and replace it with the C-word — could. How does it feel — emotionally and physically — compared to using should?
The simple act of replacing the S-word for the C-word changes how you feel about yourself. This simple swap allows you to look back on your past choices and reevaluate them, to look at your experiences and say, “I could have made another decision but I chose another path.” What matters more is how you move forward from each choice, free of shame and judgement.
I love easy shame busters and this is one of my favorites. I use this very strategy myself, and there are few experiences more powerful than feeling that heaviness on my chest subside, allowing my shame to evaporate. Give it a try and watch your shame melt away.