I’ve noticed an epidemic in my life and in the lives of my clients. The more I look and listen, the more I realize it’s everywhere. We’re all suffocating beneath layers of guilt, shame, comparison, and fear all because of three little words.
This is especially true when it comes to sex and the way we view our bodies.
You may not even realize they’re showing up in your life, but I can guarantee you that if these words creep up when you’re talking about your body, your sexual confidence, your sex life, or your partner, then your pleasure and enjoyment are probably being hijacked.
Are you ready for them?
“Should” and “supposed to”.
And here’s how these dangerous words tend to show themselves:
— “I/My partner should want sex more often.”
— “I’m supposed to feel something when he touches me.”
— “Shouldn’t it feel good when you do this?”
— “He should seduce me rather than expecting me to just turn it on.”
— “Isn’t the best part of sex supposed to be having an orgasm?”
— “Everyone says I’m supposed to masturbate, but isn’t it a lesser form of sex?”
— “I should feel happy about this.”
Do you hear yourself in any of these phrases or questions?
They come up in my self-talk a lot, and when I’m meeting with a client, especially someone who is in distress, these words are usually littered throughout their entire description of what’s wrong and why they’re so frustrated or lost.
So, let’s do something radical together.
Let’s ban “should” and “supposed to” from our vocabulary and from our thoughts. When you catch them creeping up on you, karate chop those jerks right into next week and don’t give them the energy they so desperately want.
Doing this one thing can drastically shift your perspective in the most profound ways and immediately boost your sexual confidence.
Because “should” is a refusal of what is. “Supposed to” is a denial of the truth. Both take you right out of the present and plunk you down somewhere else.
And I can tell you with 100% certainty that pleasure and joy and delirious happiness and deep desire live in the here and now.
You know what else these words do?
They place blame. They make the internal into an external problem. Something that’s over there, rather than something you can control and own up to and CHANGE.
Stop worrying about what SHOULD be happening, focus instead on what IS happening.
Instead of wondering if this is how something is supposed to feel, marvel at how it actually does (because even if it’s not great, at least you’re being honest about it and can do something about it).
When you are anywhere but in the present moment, you can’t give yourself the gift of changing the circumstances, of speaking up, of saying “this doesn’t work for me, so let’s do something else!”
In fact, when you have “should” and “supposed to” hanging out on your shoulders, whispering in your ear, they’re pretty much sucking the joy right out of whatever it is you’re doing and turning it into a burden instead of an adventure.
One more note on flipping the script on yourself.
When you take these words out of rotation, it’s going to require you to show up.
You’re going to be seen. You’ll have to learn to speak up. And, there’s a certain vulnerability in that. But, I promise, you can do this.
You deserve this. You really do.
So, let’s take those god awful phrases from up above and make a few of them into something useful, shall we? (I have a fun little worksheet for you at the end, too, so you can practice reframing a few on your own.)
1. I/My partner should want sex more often.
So many powerful alternatives to this one. How about “I want to want sex more often.”
That shows a desire for change, and it reflects the truth of where you are now and where you’d like to go. Now you have a concrete point A and point B.
You want to go from here to there. From not wanting sex very often to wanting sex more. A very achievable goal, I might add.
Another version could be “My partner does not want sex more often.”
Terrific! Now you know specifically what your partner does not want, and you can explore what you DO want.
Maybe your partner not wanting more sex is a good thing, because you don’t either. But if you want more sex and your partner does not, now you can actually sit down and have a loving conversation about your options. Or you can adjust your expectations.
Taking this more active approach is scary as hell, but now you aren’t burying your head in the sand or avoiding what is. Trust me – facing what is might be tough, but avoiding it for weeks, months, or years is so much more damaging and exhausting.
2. I’m supposed to feel something when he touches me.
Can you feel the obligation in that sentence? The guilt, the exhaustion, the wanting to be anywhere but here-ness?
What are some options?
“I don’t feel aroused when he touches me.”
Definitive. Concrete. Vulnerable and honest. You aren’t feeling aroused. That’s a vital acknowledgement if you want to change where you are.
Now that you’re admitting to yourself that you don’t feel aroused, what needs to change so that you do feel aroused? Or, does the change need to involve who is doing the touching?
The options may seem scary, but this statement breaks you out of the never-ending loop that is “supposed to”.
It could also become “I want to feel something when he touches me.”
Can you feel that desire for change in those words? There’s a longing or a wistfulness. It’s the beginning of a story.
And the amazing news is that you get to write your own story, but only when face your own truth.
From this place of wanting to feel something, you have so many choices to consider.
Did you used to feel something and it’s changed? What did it used to feel like? Did you never feel it and now you’re finally giving that truth a voice? Have your circumstances shifted (perhaps from having kids or taking on a new stressful job)?
Your words hold tremendous power over your happiness and experiences in life.
When you give yourself permission to exist in your own truth, you open the door to unbelievable beauty (and yes, sometimes that beauty comes after you work through something painful or difficult, but it’s so much better than the alternative).
Let’s do one more together.
3. He should seduce me rather than expecting me to just turn it on.
Ouch. This feels like a fight that’s played out many times, doesn’t it? The accusation and the hurt and the feelings of being so fed up that nothing ever changes…
“I want him to seduce me rather than expecting me to just turn it on.”
WOW. Can you feel the shift?
One of the things so many of us struggle with is stating our wants, needs, and desires. By removing “should”, suddenly you’ve stumbled across a want, which means you can lovingly ask for it from a place of power. This is where your assertive voice lives. This is how needs get met and you create a relationship based on openness and vulnerability.
What happens if our statement becomes “He doesn’t seduce me. It feels like he expects me to just turn it on.”
You’re observing what isn’t happening, which means you’re focused on actual behaviors, and now you’ve voiced a feeling of expectation of performance. There’s a certain burden or stress in that expectation, isn’t there?
Now you can have a conversation with him about your feelings (which cannot be denied because they’re your truth) and your observation. This has also given you insight into some of your wants – you don’t want to feel like sex is expected of you and you want to be seduced.
And just like that, you’ve found your voice.
You aren’t taught how to talk about your needs and wants at any point in your life. Maybe you were raised in a household that valued your voice and your experiences, but it’s rare that I meet someone who was so lucky.
To this day, I struggle to use my voice. When I learned this little trick, it made a tremendous difference for me in how I was experiencing my own voice and how I was experiencing sex.
Remember that sex and connecting with other people is fun and exciting and it feels good. So, approach this like an experiment.
See if you can catch yourself saying “should” or “supposed to” ten times this week and reframe the sentence or question in a new way, and then reflect on how it feels. It can be little things rather than great big things, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes to see the way these words show up for you.
One final thought on “should” and “supposed to”…
Often these words are used to pass judgment on others or to passive-aggressively share your disapproval. “Should you really be watching that?” or “You should really think about what that’s doing to the kids.”
When you’re on the receiving end of those words, it can be incredibly degrading, disrespectful, and irritating.
You deserve better and so do the people in your life that you love.
Let’s start a campaign to ban these words from everyone’s vocabulary. Let’s ask ourselves to show up and live our truths, and let’s ask the same of the people in our lives.
Having an accountability buddy can be incredibly helpful, too. As your partner to gently point out when you use these words. Something as simple as, “You just used ‘should’. What do you really want?”
Is there anything more supportive than someone inviting you to use your voice and speak your truth?
OK. So, now it’s your turn. Click to grab a little worksheet I created. Once you go through it, be sure to drop me a line letting me know what “should” statements came up for you.