There was a time in my life when I put myself last. I was always easy going, and shy and somehow (perhaps because my anxiety was in its early stages) I always followed the crowd. If my family wanted to go home early from the mall to get started on supper, I made no protest. At work, if someone wanted something changed and wanted me to do the changing to accommodate them, I’d accommodate and changed to make them happy. Sometimes, this made everything for me much more difficult. But, I always told myself I was happy to help, I would just make it work for me.
This went on for years. I was a people pleaser. With family, with co-workers, with friends. And when I was in my early thirties, my body starting letting me know that this habit was putting enormous stress on me.
And so I found myself in the woods again. I hadn’t been there in a few years, but there I was, wandering some winding path that lead deeper and deeper into darker woods where the path narrowed and then vanished. I stood in the middle of the woods–my life–and wondered how I had gotten so lost. And so, I began to put myself first.
Putting Yourself First Is Not Easy
I had to start with friends. I had some friends that were proving rather toxic. I felt accountable to them, the way a child is accountable to a parent. I also didn’t always appreciate the way they treated me. So, I had to cut these people out of my life. In a way, I was sorry. But, I knew it was for the best.
Putting myself first also meant beginning to stand up for myself. Drawing boundaries. Saying no. Again, not easy especially when someone doesn’t like taking no for an answer. But you know what? They’ll get the message. And your mental health and physical health matter more than pleasing others when they are being selfish or lazy, so please don’t think it’s unkind to say no or set boundaries. Asking for help is one thing; I think I should help others if I can if they ask for help. But not that if that helps entails making their life easier by doing work for them or making my own work day harder.
And, in my books, it’s the same with family and friends. You have sometimes say no, and draw clear boundaries and expectations. Your sister wants you to baby sit her kids at short notice? That might be a no as it’s inconsiderate of your life and plans. If your sister has an emergency, such as in-law has fallen ill, that might be different. In the end, the boundaries are ones you set, and that others understand they must respect. Is this easy? NO, but again, your mental health should not suffer because you’re stuck in the woods. I had to turn around, wind along other paths, some of which lead me to hurt as I learned to say no, to really learn how to put myself first.
I don’t regret it at all. I finally feel like an adult, a capable, strong woman who knows her own mind because I took that time to analyze my choices, and made changes so that at times I my choices in my best interest even if those choices didn’t always please others.
What are ways you put yourself first? Share in the comments below 🙂