Catriona Futter – Equip For Life Coaching Becoming your best self and living life to the full – 07713 974138

Do you suffer from ‘hardening of the oughteries’?

Now there is a phrase that made me stop and do a mental double-take: ‘hardening of the oughteries’.

I first heard the term when it was used by a client in relation to herself.

Do you say 'yes' to too many things because you ought to?

Do you say ‘yes’ to too many things because you ought to?

I have not dug up it’s origins, although a very brief online search attributes it to the late Dr Frank Lake, in his book Clinical Theology. And he came up with that phrase over 50 years ago – it seems human nature rarely changes despite technological advancement.

And as we continue to dip our toes into the enormous, deep and stormy water that is the subject of boundaries, this is directly relevant. Why?

Because we often break our own boundaries by saying ‘yes’ to someone or something because we feel we ought to.

Listen to the ‘oughts’ in your own conversation for a few days and pay heed.

When do you find yourself saying, “I ought to say yes because

  • I am (or I want to be seen as) an obedient/good/helpful/kind/hardworking/…../person”
  • I don’t want to let the other person down
  • I don’t want to disappoint or be seen as a disappointment
  • I want to be needed and valued
  • I want to prove myself

Now none of these reasons are bad in themselves – integrity, reliability, hard work, generosity and self worth are very important in well functioning relationships. But not at the cost of feeling run into the ground, and being at the beck and call of everyone else, which is the risk of always responding to the ‘oughteries’.

As ever, self awareness is crucial – what is under the surface of your reaction, and why. What is your motive, and what is most important here? Some alternative questions to ask yourself when the ‘oughteries’ surface could include:

Am I ignoring my own needs because of negative tapes that have stuck to me from the past?

What do I really want in this situation?

What am I trying to prove, and to whom?

If nobody were disappointed or let down, would I prefer to say yes or no?

Would I be comfortable asking the same question of someone else?

Is this a precedent I want to set, and if not, where would I draw the line? ie: if I go down this route, how do I subsequently say no to similar requests?

None of this is easy, and this level of self awareness takes time and energy. But gaining a stronger sense of self, understanding more clearly what your current life priorities are (which will change and evolve in different seasons), and respecting your own boundaries and those of others will go some way to preventing ‘hardening of the oughteries’.

2 Thoughts on “Do you suffer from ‘hardening of the oughteries’?

  1. Pingback: Knowing your limits Part II

  2. Pingback: What is the cost of saying 'yes'?

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