Unlearning pressures impressed upon me when I was young has been a challenge. A day never went by that I didn’t hear, you should or shouldn’t do this or that. In the years following “should” became a mainstay in my vocabulary. I put pressure on myself every single day. I made myself feel guilty for perceived failures. Every. Single. Day.

It wasn’t until I was in my late 30’s that someone pointed out what I was doing to myself. Yes, it began in childhood with my mother, but where she left off, I continued. In time I realized that all I was actually accomplishing was to make myself more stressed and carrying a constant feeling of guilt.

I especially experience these feelings when I have a severe migraine and am unable to get out of bed. Instead of listening to what my body is telling me, I fret over being unable to care for my son, do housework, and my husband needing to pick up the slack for a couple of days. It’s as though I have a tiny Karen living in my head reminding me that I am failing, and everything is going to fall apart because I’m not juggling it all.

Let me tell you a secret. Nothing is going to fall apart. The world isn’t going to end. And relying on your partner to pick up some slack for you isn’t selfish. Everyone needs a break. Everyone gets sick. Everyone needs help. None of these instances indicates that you are selfish, weak, or incompetent. The Karen in your head may tell you these things are true. She may push you to the brink of madness at times because you feel as though you can’t win. But she is wrong.

The first step in caging this voice is to be aware. Take note of your inner dialogue and when negativity surfaces change your train of thought. Silencing the voice immediately in the moment can go a long way to stopping it from overwhelming you. One way to make it easier to acknowledge this critic is to give the voice a name. I chose Karen because when I hear that voice in my head, I think of the countless women I have witnessed acting entitled, snarky, rude, and annoying. When I took the time to change my perspective, to hear the voice in another other than my own, I gained power over it.

Other times redirecting your thoughts is more difficult. I find this especially true when I am in pain or not feeling well. In those moments I choose to hear the thought and then remind myself of the inherent lie within. I take the time to acknowledge the sentiment and then remind myself all the reasons it is untrue. I recite the following affirmation: I am not weak. I am not lazy. I am not failing.

Progress will be a highly personal endeavor. It will not be easy. Although, eliminating the negative thoughts or the “should/shouldn’t” messages, can do a great deal toward increasing your overall happiness and satisfaction with your life.

Remember, you have the power to approach your thoughts as you would anyone else. You deserve the same kindness, respect, and love. Above all, recognize that you need to extend yourself some grace and accept help when you are having trouble. Imagine what removing the pressures of “should” can do for you.