So here’s the thing: I’ve been told that I have great potential and I can’t completely disagree. I am a physically healthy young woman. I work two jobs in the summer and go to school in the fall. I have great friends and am in a loving relationship. My family is supportive beyond words. I live a privileged life. So that begs the question: what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get out of bed in the mornings and brush my teeth? Why does it take me 20 minutes to respond to an email at work when it should only take me five? Why do I have to give myself a pep-talk before every social interaction I have? I should be able to do all those things, right? I think that’s my problem. I use the word “should” too much. It’s a dangerous one, I’ll tell you. It’s dangerous. It sneaks into your head and tells you what your life ought to look like. And it stays there, growing, feeding off of society’s cues until one day, when you seemingly “fail” this expectation, it comes out. “Should” reinforces the standards we’ve made up for ourselves that are often unrealistic. As somebody who struggles with chronic depression, yet lives a life that I’m very grateful for, it’s hard not to tell myself, “I should be happy.” But I think as we’re all beginning to realize, there is no cookie-cutter lifestyle that allows for acceptable depression. You can have bad days and good days no matter what life you’re leading. This applies to people without a mental illness diagnosis as well. So how do we challenge these beliefs that we should be acting or feeling in particular ways? Here are some ideas: 1. Recognize there is no correct way to go through life. People take their own paths for a variety of reasons. You don’t need to follow someone else’s footsteps just because you think it’s the “right way.” 2. Forgive your mistakes. Looking back at past actions you regret and telling yourself what you should have done differently does not change your present situation. Accept what is done and embrace it. 3. Validate your successes. We have all succeeded at something in our lives, but we may fail to recognize those accomplishments. Try to see your successes for what they are and give yourself credit for what you have done. 4. Try to verbalize your stressors. Talk to someone in your support system about what is bothering you, write about it in a journal or just say it aloud. Sometimes, just vocalizing your expectations can remind you of how unrealistic they may be. 5. Finally, be proactive! Many times, our “should do’s” are impractical, but there are times when we can take action. If you feel like you should working out, take a brisk walk! You don’t have to be running marathons to be active, just take small steps towards your goal. At the end of the day, there is only one real “should” phrase I think we all need to take to heart: We should be kind to ourselves. Because we deserve it.