Dear Sensitive Soul,

I just got back from seeing the latest Harry Potter movie with my sweetie. It was so fun to see the story continuing. I'm planning to re-read the sixth book this weekend before the seventh comes out.

It's been a lovely summer so far, at least here on the west coast of California. I hear from my friends in New York and Chicago that it's been blistering hot lately. It's times like this that make me grateful for the San Francisco Bay Area fog. I hope you are surviving the weather well wherever you are.

I've written this month about "shoulds." I talk about them with my clients all the time, and thought you also might like thinking about how you are talking to yourself and other people.

I'm planning to do an affordable, large group format version of my Embrace Your Essential Self coaching program in September. If you'd like to be on my special mailing list to find out more, please sign up here (and be sure to click the link in the automatic confirmation response you get back). I look forward to the possibility of having you join me.


Feature Article
Are you "shoulding" yourself?

As a highly sensitive soul, you are likely to be extremely hard on yourself. Most -- though not all -- of us have been invalidated for being sensitive by our culture, friends, and families. We have internalized strong messages telling us that it is not OK to simply be who we are.

These messages show up as negative talk-tracks that run through our minds, delivering thoughts such as, "I'm not good enough," or "I'll never be able to do this because I am too sensitive." They also show up as unsupportive questions such as, "What's wrong with me?" or "Why can't I be like everyone else?"

These limiting beliefs, internalized negative messages, and unsupportive questions wreak havoc on our wellbeing. Despite this, most of us heavily invest in believing these messages.

One way these messages turn up is how we "should" each other and ourselves. "Shoulding" other people in the form of unsolicited advice can be invalidating. "Shoulding" ourselves, in addition to being invalidating, also points to aspects of our lives that aren't working.

Shoulding others
Shoulds often show up as advice, sentences that start with, "You should (fill in the blank)." Unsolicited advice, in any form, undermines the person to whom it is offered. It is a vote of no confidence. It suggests that we believe the person we are shoulding is incapable of finding their own way, that we know what's best for them.

As sensitive, intuitive beings, we may well have insights that can help other people. But unless they request our support or wisdom, it is invalidating to supply it. Empathic sensitives often give advice to try and fix another person, so that person stops affecting us. A better strategy is to remember that people are on their right and perfect path, from a soul perspective -- even when they are visibly not, from our limited human perspective.

I encourage you to look at how you might be "shoulding" the people around you. Notice how often unsolicited advice is truly more applicable to your own life, and most likely something you're not doing for yourself.

Shoulding yourself
In a sense, people use shoulds to coerce themselves to fit in better, through comparisons. "Everyone else can do x, so I should be able to do that, too." Whether it's socializing easily at a party, working long hours, dealing with environmental stressors like noise, light, and weather, or thriving without time alone, we still ask: Since other people are able to adapt, why can't I?

I believe this shoulding is a form of self-deception and denial. As a highly sensitive person, you aren't wired to process life the same way a non-sensitive does. What works for your less-than highly sensitive friends, colleagues, and family members, most often won't work for you.

So, rather than shoulding yourself, I encourage you to look for what does work, what you do want, and alternative ways of doing things. In other words, give yourself permission to be highly sensitive (because you are) and then adjust your life accordingly. As I am fond of saying, when you work with your sensitivity, rather than against it, things get a whole lot easier.

Shoulds are red flags
I teach my clients to vigilantly watch for shoulds in their own thinking and speaking. Whenever you catch yourself shoulding, say or think: "Time out. What is it that I really need and want right now? How can I give that to myself?" Then, make those corrections.

And really, so what?
So what, if it doesn't work for you to work an insanely hectic schedule? To do work without meaning? To socialize all hours of the night? The important thing to remember is that it matters to YOU. And when you honor yourself and your sensitivity, you'll do what you do with greater impact, satisfaction, and enjoyment. Doesn't that make it worth the effort to take care of yourself?

Powerful questions to ask:
-- Is this a should?
-- What do I REALLY need and want?

Copyright 2007, Jennifer K. Avery

For more articles like this one, see Jenna's Articles or her E-zine Archives online.

This article may be published on your website or in your e-zine as long as the copyright notice and this complete note are included:

Jenna Avery, the Life Coach for Sensitive Souls, offers an original coaching program designed to guide highly sensitive souls to a deep sense of inner rightness, so they are inspired to step forward and shine. You're invited to visit her website at to take her free online assessment, "Is Your Sensitivity Working For You?"

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The Art of
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July 2007

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