THE BLOG

Replace 'Should' With 'Could to Live a Happier Life

02/05/2015 01:00 pm ET | Updated Apr 07, 2015
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My personality sometimes makes it hard for me to accept things as they come. When I want something, I want it right now. My mom always said it was so hard to buy me presents for my birthday and Christmas because if I ever wanted something, I immediately bought it.

This also goes for things that are not material. When I started exercising, I wanted to have a perfectly fit body immediately. This did not help my obsession with body image as I would get up every morning and examine myself in the mirror to see if I had magically become the most toned, least body fat percentage person possible. When I wasn't, I would start increasing the exercise and decreasing the food. No matter what I would do, I would always be disappointed.

When I started a new job I wanted to be the most important person there. Don't they know who I am?? I could never be satisfied with where I was at any given moment. When I started my blog, I did it primarily for myself, but then the impatience started to creep in. I wanted to be the most followed blogger of ALL TIME. I needed everyone to read what I wrote as soon as I wrote it.

I have a hard time staying in the moment and being grateful for the things that I do have. I find myself looking for something more or something better. I lose track of the now and throw myself into the future which makes me feel stressed and anxious. One of the many important things I have learned is that I am able to feel more peaceful when I live in today and am able to reflect on how much my life has changed for the better.

I tend to have a lot of patience with others. I don't do this perfectly, but I try. I have the least amount of patience with myself. I use the word "should" when the word "could" is much more appropriate. By saying that I "should" be doing something, I give myself the opportunity to berate myself if I don't do it.

"Should" also takes into account the perspectives of other people, which I may or may not share. When I lost my pharmacy career and eventually found a job as a receptionist, I couldn't be happy with where I was because I felt like I "should" be doing something more with my life given my education.

Exchanging the word "could" for "should" opened a lot of doors for me. It allowed me to realize that I had a choice about things and to examine my own ideas and wants about life. Saying that I "could" removed a lot of guilt associated with not doing something. Here are some examples:

"I'm not feeling great, but I should go to the gym because it's a day when I normally do."

vs

"I'm not feeling great. I could go to the gym because I normally do, or I could take the time to rest and have a more productive workout another day."
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"I have more training than this; I should be further in my career than I am."

vs

"I could have a better job, but I would have to go back to school again. Maybe I can pursue other interests I have at the same time that don't cost thousands of dollars."
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"This is what society deems attractive. I should look like that."

vs

"I could look like that, but I know it involves treating my body in an unhealthy way to get there and if I was genetically supposed to look that way, I probably would. I am going to aspire to look the best for what my body is supposed to look like and be ok with that."
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The list goes on and on. "Should" didn't allow me to make mistakes. "Could" allowed me to understand that I was human.

I am my harshest critic. I know I am not unique and I am not the only one this applies to. I challenge everyone to just pause and appreciate where you are today without any expectations. Be patient with yourself. You are right where you are supposed to be.

This post originally appeared here on Erin's Inside Job.

If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.