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How To Break Up With The Shoulds That Overrule Your Authentic Voice

Dr. Payal Patel Ghayal is Certified Life and Parent Coach for women physicians and an Integrative Pediatrician. She helps women to start advocating for themselves, and experience greater fulfillment and happiness.

You’ve been “shoulded” by society…

“Shoulded” by our families…

“Shoulded” by our parents…

And we’ve been “shoulded” by ourselves.

What does it mean when I talk about the “shoulds”?

You’ve been told the story of the “ideal” situation. How life “should” be.

You should get straight A’s

I know you know what I’m talking about.

Growing up as a first-generation immigrant in the United States, many sacrifices were made.

I could live in this country where there was so much freedom. More freedom than what my parents experienced. More freedom than what my ancestors experienced.

So, a lot was riding on my shoulders.

And…every time a report card came home…I would freak out if it wasn’t perfect.

This is because…

I “should” be getting straight A’s.

And everytime a report card would come out, I would freak out if it wasn’t perfect.

I SHOULD be doing well, and as close to perfect as possible.

Because a lot of sacrifices were made so I can live this life.

The first time I came home with something other than straight A’s I had a complete emotional breakdown. No one said anything to me. Maybe my parents did mention in the past. “You have to get straight A’s when I was younger, BUT when I was a teenager ALL of that was me!

I remember I took AP Calculus, you know what I’m talking about right?

AP Calculus is completely optional. I like math but Calculus is just not my cup of tea.

I got a B and I freaked out!

I didn’t understand.

I was crying!

It was a whole hot mess.

Especially if you grew up in a household where grades and education were hyper emphasized, right?

There’s a lot riding on it.

If you do well in school…You’ll get into a good college.

If you get into a good college…You’ll have this idea perfect career where there’s


Financial Success…

And many times there’s a societal acceptance of this really respected profession.

Being a doctor was a huge deal for our family.

So, when I went into medicine it was like a very proud moment for our family and for the extended family because it was a very respectable career.

I had a lot of pressure on myself to do well because in my house it was doctor or bust.

If you grew up in a house like had 3 options:

  • Doctor
  • Engineer
  • Finance

Everyone else, not like us, could do anything in the world they wanted.


In my family…those were NOT options.

The only option: The most stable career.

And when I got that report card back, I told myself a story that now that I have a B on my report card…

I’m not going to do well in my final grades, I’m not going to be one of the top students in my class or get into a good college….or med school, and then…

Game Over.

It’s called Catastrophizing.

This is such a common thing that happens when we put so much pressure on one thing and make it mean so much!

I made it mean everything when I didn’t get what I should have gotten.

What other “shoulds” come up for us?

We’ve covered the career part of it, right?

I should have a family, get married, and have kids and my family SHOULD show up and do things that are acceptable.

Kids go to a good school…

They do well…

Their sports, social events…a lot of “keeping up with the Joneses”

Keeping up, right?

Why do we have to do any of those things?

I want to let you in on a secret, that’s been life-changing…

Should = Could + Shame

If you replace the word Should with Could, you’ll feel completely different.

It’s fascinating what that extra level of shame does to the way you feel, how you show up, and the result you get in your life.

How can I put that into action?

My kids SHOULD try new things.

My kids COULD try new things.

There’s a lightness to the second one.

  • I could go into medicine…
  • I could see more patients…
  • I could cut down on my hours…to have more work-life integration
  • I could work out before I leave for work…
  • I could skip the sugary drink I love so much…

Should = Could + Shame

Where else are you “should-ing” yourself?

I should eat healthier

I should do something so I could lose the extra 10 – 30 lbs.

I should do something about my skin…

My house should look clean…

When I allow myself to live by the “shoulds’ I don’t find myself taking action.

Getting the goal I wanted to get.

Or striving harder or stronger.

Despite what you’ve been taught for the last 3, 4, or 5 decades.

Negativity and negative thoughts, don’t encourage you to do better.

  • Putting yourself down.
  • Telling yourself, you’re wrong, you can do better…

Doesn’t push you to do better.

We don’t push ourselves to do better because it works…

When we interact with our patients, our spouses, our partners…

Our children, our friends…

How does it feel when your “should-ed”?

Does that really push you to strive and achieve?

Or does it push you away?

Love Payal



Hey, if you’re ready to advocate for yourself and listen to your inner voice so you can live in freedom, wake up everyday with purpose and enjoy your work and family. Check out my program here for more information on my 1:1 coaching.


Hey, if you’re ready to advocate for yourself and listen to your inner voice so you can live in freedom, wake up everyday with purpose and enjoy your work and family.

Check out my program here for more information on my 1:1 coaching.

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