The tyranny of “should”

Posted: Aug 12, 2015 in August 2015

Remember Sue*? She was learning some new cognitive skills to facilitate her weight loss and maintenance.  She was working on giving herself credit to maintain her motivation ( She found that she was having some sabotaging thoughts in response to trying to implement this new skill:


"I don't deserve credit for this, I should be doing these things"


"I feel so silly giving myself credit, these things should be easy for me to do"


When Sue had these thoughts she found she felt discouraged and was less likely to engage in the behaviour of giving herself credit. She further noticed that over the past week she wasn't making it to the gym or having her morning snack as planned. These factors were having a negative impact on Sue's self efficacy as well as her self esteem. Sue and I explored the costs and benefits of trailing this new skill. Eventually, she summarized this on a response card. Here's what it said:


"Losing and keeping off this weight is important to me. I haven't been able to do this successfully thus far. Since I've never tried giving myself credit, I'm going to try it out. It only takes 5 seconds. The changes I am making aren't always easy. I deserve credit every single time I engage in these behaviours."


Sue read this card every morning and again throughout the day when these sabotaging thoughts arose. When I saw her the following week, she was back on track and feeling motivated!


*as ever, all identifying information has been changed