As a (recovering) people pleaser, I never entertained the thought of putting myself first. But during these crazy and uncharted times in a pandemic, I believe now more than ever that it’s important to make yourself a priority.
Growing up we are taught to share with others, care about others, and give to others (time, money, love, energy, talents, etc.). These “others” that I speak of could be family members, friends, business partners, charities, or even strangers on the internet! Not only was it taught, in many families, it was even encouraged!
Now…don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that giving the above mentioned to others is bad and shouldn’t be encouraged. Giving can make you feel REALLY good and fulfilled! But how often are we taught to truly give to OURSELVES? When we are younger, how often are we encouraged to put ourselves first?
Until recently I would be SO flexible and go along with ANY plan (even if it was something I didn’t want to actually do). I believed that what other people wanted was more important than what I wanted. I was also willing to run my tank on empty before feeling like I let someone down. I was unaware of how much energy I was giving constantly! And the energy I was giving was without any limitations or boundaries.
Because I wasn’t good at putting myself first, it was affecting me negatively both mentally and physically for years. I had low confidence, I was a people pleaser, and I was EXHAUSTED.
Putting yourself first could look a little bit different to everyone. To me, it was a combination of being who I truly was, investing in myself (physically and mentally), and getting healthy. When I finally made the decision to start putting myself first in December of 2018, let me tell you, it was 1000x easier SAID than DONE. In fact, there were a few beliefs that I needed to let go of in order to start putting myself towards the top of my priority list.
1. Putting myself first makes me selfish.
This was the biggest belief that I felt was most important to let go of. As a people pleaser and one who wanted everyone to like me, I felt if I put myself first, it was selfish…and people don’t like selfish people! How dare I go to bed early because I like my routine. And how dare I not drink alcohol when everyone else is enjoying it.
But when you give in and do things that you don't necessarily want to do, just to appease others, are you being the person you want to be? Are you honoring yourself? I know what my answer was. I have read and heard this example over and over again, but for a very good reason. If an airplane is going down, the flight staff tells you that YOU need to put your oxygen mask on FIRST. If you try to help others without putting yours on first, you will not be alive very long to help save other lives. Yes….it’s very extreme, but it's a great metaphor for how important it is to make yourself a priority!
2. I have to pick one or the other
There is a trendy word going around right now, and maybe you’ve heard of it: BALANCE. In my mind, either I had to put everyone first or I had to put myself first. But after practicing moving myself up the priority list, I realized you CAN do both. You can give to others and give to yourself. It can BE a balance if you are willing to set boundaries.
For instance, I work out/move my body almost every day. It is a habit, a non-negotiable. It makes me feel good, gives me energy. And because of that, I’m able to do my job and GIVE to members/others (energy, time, etc.) all day. And it brings me joy. If I was always just giving to everyone without giving to myself, I don’t feel that I would have the true kind of love and energy that I want to give to others (at least not without total exhaustion). And exhaustion is not healthy!
Once I let that go, I was able to see I could accomplish both. It took some practice, but it's possible!
3. I am not good enough
Here comes ALLLL the negative self-talk and conversations I used to have. *queue the violin* I didn’t think that I was good at anything, or that I was funny or likable enough. I told myself how dumb I was when I stuttered over my words and when I didn’t make sense. And I was beating myself up inside so much, why would I put myself at the top of the list if I feel I didn’t deserve it?! I had to change my self-talk to “I am good enough, and I deserve this”.
This one took a LOT of practice, but guess what? Your thoughts become your reality. How your speak about yourself is how you begin to truly view yourself. And YOUR thoughts inside of you are the ones that matter most. Because they’re YOURS. You are going to be stuck with you the rest of your life, so why not let this belief of “I am not good enough” go and start becoming your biggest fan. That’s what I told myself when I made the decision to start putting myself first.
4. There is not enough time for me.
I am going to give you a little tough love on this one, because I was a big victim to it too.
We all know that there is 24 hours in a day. It doesn’t matter WHO you are, how successful you are, how rich you are, how many friends you have….it doesn’t MATTER, you get 24 hours. But it is 100% your choice how you spend those 24 hours. And guess what? There is always enough time for the most important things. What are you making important? What are you choosing to give your time and energy to?
Letting go and putting myself first
I let those beliefs go and I’ll tell you that I have not looked back. I feel more connected to myself more than I have ever felt in my life. I’m aware and conscious of giving to myself so I can better give to others. Because I’ve done this, I feel so grounded and confident. I continually show up for myself and put myself first because then others get the best version of me. And my recovering people pleasing self LOVES that. Putting myself first doesn’t mean that I ALWAYS put myself first above everyone else. But to me, it is finding the perfect amount to fill my cup. It’s not selfish to give to others AND give to myself. I am MORE than good enough and deserving and I MAKE the time for myself because I. AM. IMPORTANT. I believe it and I show myself, every day.
I’m not asking you to deconstruct and ruin friendships/jobs/lifestyles. All I’m asking is for you to ask yourself if you are important. And if you say that you are (and I REALLY hope you do) what’s one thing that you can do for yourself EACH day that will pour a little back into your cup. It doesn’t have to be HOURS, it may only be a 5-minute conversation with yourself in the mirror telling yourself how great of a person you are. But I challenge you to start slowly building on that foundation. You are good enough.
So tell me, are you important?