How often do you put yourself first? Several years ago, when I was first asked how often I put myself first, I automatically answered often since I thought I did. I enjoyed my existing roles and activities related to being a mother, wife, employee, volunteer, etc. However, when I examined that question a little deeper, I realized that although I liked what I did, many of the activities were in service of others and not necessarily myself. Does this sound familiar to you?
We make time for our families, friends, jobs, staff, community, and many other roles and activities. Yet, when we look at where we are on our to do list we either are not on it or are so far down the line that we don’t notice or recognize ourselves on the list.
I began to think about my state of being while doing things and I noticed two sets of patterns. While doing for others or fulfilling responsibilities I would do them and I could identify points when I was not at my best. Instead, I felt overstressed, overcommitted, too tired, lacked energy, was unfocused and felt burdened. How this affected my relationships is that I would be quicker to worry, have a short temper, be disengaged or not show up 100%.
Self-care is selfless
When I reflected on what was different when I put myself first I realized I was willing to do more for others, have more energy to give and share, as well as produce outcomes of higher quality. I recognized to better serve others, I needed to put myself first and that was a thought that was not pleasant.
My initial reaction was lots of negative self-talk. I thought that I was being selfish, taking time from others, or that it would require too much time from an already busy schedule. I also told myself that others would think I was not willing to lend a hand, wasn’t willing to be of service or that I wasn’t spending my money wisely.
I realized that part of my reaction was due to my upbringing. Being the second youngest in a family of eight, I was the last one of my siblings to have children. Therefore, my family expected me to babysit, run errands or help out at our family restaurant in the summer and on weekends. I did not challenge this expectation because “good daughters” don’t ask questions. I learned to pitch in at all times. I was a people pleaser. I did not want others to think negatively of me, especially family or friends. When I finally recognized that I was allowing other people’s opinions to influence my actions, I became aware of how unhealthy it was for me since I wasn’t taking care of myself.
Five Ways to Put You First
By embracing this new concept, I learned a few things about putting myself first and different ways to do it. Si tú quieres, here are five ways you can put yourself first:
- Speak up. Sometimes I would wait and see if others would offer to help or step up. When they didn’t I was the one doing it all or feeling angry with them for not offering assistance. If you don’t speak up others won’t know what you need.
- Before, I would respond to a request with a yes or no (rarely!). It was automatic. I have learned to negotiate on the deadline, the amount of work, help the person identify someone else or offer to delegate. The point here is that you can be a resource and respond in more than just two ways.
- I used to think that me time involved 1/2-day activities, getting away from work or home. Sure, I want that sometimes and the reality is that you don’t need lots of time. You need to be intentional and find a space or activity that will allow you to unplug or unwind from every day life and recharge your energy level and can be as little as 15 minutes or more.
- Define how. I used to think moving me up the list meant I had to do it alone or away from others. I have learned that there are times when I wanted to be by myself and other times I look forward to having intimate gatherings with friends. There is no right way and no one way. For you, that might be chatting with a friend for a few minutes, enjoying a good cup of coffee slowly, completing errands without rushing, taking a quick catnap or exercising. You get to define what that means for you!
- Decide when. Do you know when you need to focus on you? Are you aware when you need to take a break from your to do list? Pay attention to your body, energy level, the thoughts that run through you head or even how committed you are to doing a particular activity.
Making time for you is as important as doing for others. When you give yourself permission to nurture and recharge, you also give others the opportunity to do the same.
“Never forget that your body belongs to you, it doesn’t belong to the state, or to your partner, it belongs to you. In whatever medium you start to realize this you will start to recognize your rights. And then accompany other women that perhaps are in a vulnerable position to realize their rights and ownership in every aspect and moment of their lives.” Lydia Cacho – Journalist & Social Activist
What is possible when you make time to take care of yourself? Tell us how putting yourself first has changed your life or how you do it.