Cognitive Distortions: The “Shoulds” Worksheet

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According to the American Psychological Association (APA), cognitive distortion can be defined as faulty or inaccurate thinking, perception or belief. (APA, © 2022) Often at times, cognitive distortions fuel our anxiety and increase our misery.

There are a number of cognitive distortions identified in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the most common include: 

  1. All-or-Nothing Thinking/ Polarized Thinking
  2. Overgeneralization
  3. Mental Filters
  4. Catastrophizing/ Magnification or Minimization
  5. Mind Reading/ Jumping to Conclusions
  6. Predicting the Future
  7. Emotional Reasoning
  8. “Shoulds” Statements
  9. Labelling

    10. Personalization and Blame 

This particular worksheet will focus on: “SHOULDS” STATEMENTS.

What Are The Theories Behind This Worksheet?

The “Shoulds” Statement is one of the ten cognitive distortions. It is categorized by a negative thinking pattern that eventually stirs feelings of doubt and fear in a person. 

According to Therapy Now SF (2021), “shoulds,” statements create a binary set of conditions in a person’s perception that can cause people to develop stress and alternatively, develop other mental health conditions.

People battling with “shoulds” statements have a fixed set of expectations which is known to be a faulty thinking pattern that is set outside of one’s true experience and reality. 

“Shoulds” Statements can be attributed to either trauma experienced, external pressures or societal pressures. 

Our minds subconsciously result to “shoulds” statements as a way of coping with a number of adverse life events (big or small) which can lead to a negative impact on our emotional well-being, relationships, and lives generally. 

Example: I must lose weight to look more attractive. 

This type of thinking prompts feelings of guilt and shame.

How Will This Worksheet Help You?

This worksheet is targeted to help individuals reframe and remove the “shoulds” statements. 

By reframing and/or removing the “shoulds” statement, we are learning to accept the feelings we are experiencing. This acceptance can lead to growth and better coping skills rather than judging or dismissing the presence of the emotion.

How Should You Use This Worksheet?

The way one person thinks will play a huge role in how they feel.

This can be done by taking time to think about the words you say out loud or what you think to yourself, others and of different situations. 

This worksheet can be used by engaging in some quiet time alone. List all the “shoulds” statements that bring you down and reframe or remove the “shoulds” statements. This will teach you how to take control of your emotions.

This worksheet can also be used daily as a self-evaluation kit. 

Please answer the following questions as honestly as possible, the questions asked will help you reframe and/ or remove the “shoulds” statements. 

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American Psychological Association. (© 2022). Cognitive Distortion. Available at:  [Accessed October 05, 2022].



Therapy Now SF. (© 2021). Should Statements: Reframe the Way You Think. Available at: [Accessed October 11, 2022].