How to put yourself first, and why you need to
How often, when you’re feeling overwhelmed and totally occupied with taking care of everybody else, do you consider that the kindest thing, the healthiest thing you could do, is to pause and firstly consider how to put yourself first?
It may seem a little obvious, but most of us really struggle with how to put yourself first mostly because we just have no clue where to start.
For some, this stems from childhood conditioning which told us that being a ‘good’ person meant that we should always ignore our own needs and put others first. The implication was clear; thinking of ourselves, prioritising ourselves was selfish and it was wrong.
Our predecessors, unwittingly, yet with the purest of intentions, made martyrs of themselves and put every single person ahead of themselves. Why? Because that’s just what good people did.
But today we live in a different world and as a result we get to ask ourselves some very different questions, some of which include the following:
Why is it that I am so quick to ignore the most important person in my life?
Why do I think self-care is for others and not for the likes of me?
Why am I so afraid to appear selfish and so worried about what that says about us?
Let’s begin by busting the myths around prioritising ourselves and our needs. Let’s look at challenging some of the deep beliefs that exist around looking after ourselves first.
1. We believe that self-care means being selfish.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. We all know the phrase of not being able to pour from an empty cup. We know that we are little use to anyone if we feel drained and depleted. When we put others first, we give of ourselves endlessly and this results in us running on empty.
2. It is your responsibility to rescue others.
Says who? Seriously, who told you, that you needed to rescue everyone else, solve their problems, listen to their woes, search for solutions to their problems? Yes admittedly, sometimes it can feel really good to help other people out, and yes, being motivated by kindness, is critical especially in these challenging times, but that doesn’t apply to every single person in your life. It’s not about being available to everyone, it’s about being available for those who really need your help, when you choose it.
3. The God Complex
This can be a challenging one to absorb and take ownership of, but some of us feel an intense urge to always be the saviour. It can quickly become who we are and part of our identity. We need to be the fixer, the problem solver, mostly because it makes us feel needed and indispensable. If this sounds like you, then I ask you to question your motives. Why is it that do you do this, or more importantly, what are you afraid of, if you don’t? Are you scared you might be abandoned, not needed or a little less lovable? We often sacrifice our own needs because we’re far too busy trying to save everyone else. Nobody is suggesting for a second that you should not help others, but there is a difference between providing support for somebody who asks for it and taking it upon ourselves to ‘save’ somebody and making their life turn out in a way that you think it should. Always ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing, so that you can be sure that your intention is pure.
4. I’m doing this because I’m a good person.
But are you? You might believe that your actions and motivations are coming from a good place but can you honestly say that you aren’t hoping for something in return? Are you trying to make yourself needed to fill a void in your own life or to avoid confronting something that needs your attention. I’ve previously been guilty of giving everything and believing I was being so kind and generous, but then feeling resentful when they inevitably didn’t give back in equal measure. When I was prepared to be really honest, I could see that this spoke far more to my insecurities, than to theirs.
4. Treat others better than you treat yourself.
So, what does putting yourself first look like? Honestly, it can look different for each of us. Don’t begin by doing what everyone else is doing, but start by thinking about what it is you want, for yourself. I believe strongly that we teach others just how to treat us by how we treat ourselves.
Ask yourself, just what behaviour you are inviting into your life when you can’t ever put yourself first.
What message are you sending out to the universe if you don’t show yourself love, respect or care.
What are you asking for in return, if you can’t let others see that you know your own worth?
When you show others that you are always willing and ready to sacrifice yourselves, you sadly end up attracting a lot more people who want you to save them and who often are not willing to reciprocate your kindness. Yes, somebody may take advantage of your caring nature, but if you lie down to be walked on, you can’t be surprised when they treat you like a doormat. When considering a new life that includes much more of you prioritising your needs, reflect on what that might look like for you and just be patient. Don’t expect the answers to come flooding in, because remember, that it’s most likely been quite a while since you asked yourself any of these questions and longer still since you waited for the answers! Be there for others but first be there for yourself.
“Women have to take the time to focus on our mental health; take time for self, for the spiritual, without feeling guilty or selfish. The world will see you the way you see you, and treat you the way you treat yourself.” – Beyoncé.
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and Author. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. Niamh will be speaking at the IMAGE Business Club Event in The Westbury Hotel on March 23, entitled Starting Over. Find her on Instagram @1niamhennis or visit niamhennis.com.
Photography by @lizzobeeating.