A very wise person once said:
“Choose to put yourself first and make you a priority. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary.”
I find it disheartening that it is a struggle to put one’s needs ahead of others. What makes them and their needs more important than you? The answer is “nothing!”
I refer to this as backwards thinking. Take this in, if anything else. If you’re not taking care of yourself first, how can you expect to help anyone else?
Your Needs Are (JUST AS) Important
I want you to imagine that we are like a battery. And, we only have a certain amount of energy. If we are using all the power on other things, then the battery drains and there’s nothing left for you. Which means, there’s nothing left when it comes time to use any energy on yourself. Like a battery, it will take time to recharge. The more energy you put into other people the quicker it will drain. Did you know that your battery can get stronger over time? Focusing on yourself, and providing your own self-care can actually make your capacity to give greater.
Now that we see (and hopefully agree) that it’s so important to give yourself permission to place yourself first, how is it done without the constant internal battle?
It is somehow easier to focus on other people’s needs than on our own. We could go deep into a lot of the reasons why that is, but they are not the focus of this article. What is most important is recognizing your own needs and honoring yourself by focusing on them.
How To ACTUALLY Put Yourself First
Start with figuring out what your self care looks like. What feeds you, heals you, relaxes you?
For some people, it’s making time for daily exercise, meditation. Or getting their hair/nails done regularly. Maybe you enjoy reading or cooking. Put a list together of all those things.
Ask yourself “What does self care look like for me?”
Picture it in your mind.
Once you’ve determined what those things are, we need to find room in your schedule. Find some time each day. Personally, I enjoy taking my first 20 minutes in the morning to sit with a cup of coffee, in the quiet and write in my journal or go through what I need to get done on that particular day. It is a great and peaceful way to begin. The care and time you give to yourself does not need to be a big production, it can be as simple as what I do.
It’s ok to start off small. In fact I recommend it. If you’ve never done something like this before, it’s going to take some time to make it a habit. Keep in mind, it takes an average of 66 days for an act to become an automatic action. Start a five minute daily routine. What a gift you will be giving to yourself. Yep, even if it is only five minutes.
We have all heard the analogy of putting the mask on yourself before your child, right?
The reason why is if you’re not breathing properly then you’re not equipped to help anyone else, whether it’s the neighbor sitting in 26B, or it’s your children.
Bottom line is taking care of yourself first is necessary. Guess what, this is your life and you matter just as much as the other people. You need to start believing that.
Sure, it is usually easier to put others before ourselves. The truth is, sometimes we just don’t want to look at ourselves. We don’t want to hear that inner gremlin telling us we’re lazy, selfish, stupid, or whatever negative things it says.
That voice is guilt and it’s a reaction to the habit you’ve formed to put everyone else first. This habit can be broken, and it really needs to be.
What I like to recommend is creating a specific, daily routine.
After a couple hours of work, do something kind for yourself for five minutes: stretch, go outside, focus on something that is just about you. And yes, work includes being a stay at home parent. The more we can get used to taking even small moments for ourselves the more we see what a difference it makes.
Not my circus, not my monkeys.
Some years back a friend of mine spoke these words to me regarding some work she was getting done in her house. It really resonated with me. When it comes to someone who needs/wants my help I am always way too eager to drop things that are going on in my life and help them with theirs. Is their struggling supposed to be my problem?
Are they more important or worthier than I am? Would they do the same for me if I needed help?
We usually don’t place ourselves first because we question our actual worthiness. But, we said it before, and we will keep saying it until it sticks…your life is just as important as someone else’s!
Yes, the guilt will come. It’s to be expected.
Breadwinners and mother’s have the strongest guilt. Breadwinners and mothers support their families, so they believe family and everything else comes before themselves. The pressure can really take a toll on your stress level, anxiety, and sense of self. Guilt is not exclusive to this group. Whatever your situation is there is no reason to feel guilty watching out for yourself and placing your needs above others.
Getting into this habit isn’t going to be easy, but it is 100% necessary.
Here’s a little mantra, something you can repeat to yourself as often as necessary:
“If I’m good, then so are the people in my life. If I’m energized, then I have the time and willingness to take care of others.”
It’s that hard and that simple. Forming new habits can be challenging. See this particular one as an absolute, a non-negotiable.
Guess what? That little act, every single day, is you putting yourself first.
It’s not selfish, it’s accurate.
If You Need Help
Overcoming the guilt can be challenging. If you need help, if you want to talk it out and learn how to properly put yourself first, Life Matters Coaching is here to help you do that.