How You “Should” Feel

One thing I’ve noticed is that some people have a tendency to tell others how they “should” feel. It’s not always done with bad intentions, but it can be harmful for those of us with anxiety disorders.

For example:

  • One the adults in my church youth group was moving to another state. In her goodbye speech, she recalled how our group was tiny when she was a student, but it had grown in the years since. She said that we should be grateful that our group is so much bigger now.
  • In choir, our end-of-semester concert theme is “world cultures”. One of the composers wrote a song based on her father’s struggles living in the Middle East. My choir director told us this backstory to help us connect with the song better. She also added how we should feel grateful that we live in the United States, where we have the freedoms that we do.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m very grateful for these things. My youth group has been my source of friendship, and we have a lot of freedoms in the U.S. that don’t exist in many parts of the world.

In my examples, neither person meant any ill harm in what they said. However, I have a problem with people who try to tell others how they “should” feel. Many people who have anxiety disorders struggle to validate their emotions, myself included. By telling them what they “should” feel, we undermine their ability to feel secure in their emotions and validate their own feelings and experiences. Not only that, but if their feelings don’t match up with yours, they can feel guilty for having different feelings when they don’t need to be. Worst case, it may cause anxiety and shyness about sharing their feelings, which isn’t healthy.

Let people determine how they feel about a certain person or situation. Everyone has the right to determine how they feel about a situation. It’s better for people to arrive at their emotions by themselves, instead of feeling like they “should” feel a certain way.

For my fellow anxiety sufferers, don’t ever let anyone tell you how you should feel. You know yourself best. You know your beliefs, likes/dislikes, and preferences better than anyone else. Don’t feel like you have to believe anyone who tells you how you should feel. Your beliefs are just as valid as everyone else’s. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone.

5 thoughts on “How You “Should” Feel”

  1. I totally understand what you mean. The hardest things for me to hear are – don’t stress, and – Is it time to let it go?
    I know people mean well, but dealing with trauma isn’t that simple.


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