Feeling guilty about putting your needs above others is a really common problem. And not just for women. Some people are fabulous at putting themselves first. Lots and lots of people, are not!
No guilt is necessary. I’m giving you permission to move your way up the ladder and prioritise you. The more you do, the more you’ll have to give.
When you prioritise others over your own needs your energy gets depleted. This doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years before one day you wake up and notice that there’s nothing left to give. Let’s not allow it to get to that.
Self-care is not selfish, it’s imperative.
Generations in western culture have taught us that putting ourselves first is selfish. That we must look after others and put their needs first because that’s just what you do. That’s how I was raised. I have learnt over time, that putting yourself first does not turn you into a selfish person.
Let me tell you my Mum’s story and see if you can relate. My Mum always, always, always did things for others and put her needs way down the priority list. Mum worked part-time as a remedial teacher, giving everything to her students and their parents. On top of that, Mum worked as a volunteer and this took up most of her spare time. Mum raised 3 daughters and had 5 grandaughters before she literally, dropped dead one day. Mum had a stroke at home at 69 and did not survive.
Since that day, I’ve reflected on Mum’s life and my own. I was going down exactly the same path. Volunteering for umpteen things (because no-one else would), working as an entrepreneur and raising 2 daughters. After years of life coaching and counselling, it still hadn’t sunk in. My business coach had to be blatant about how I was spending my time and suggest it couldn’t go on without fallout of some kind.
‘You are not God, you cannot create time’ my business coach said.
I had no time to work on my businesses, let alone myself because I was filling it with things that put my own needs way down the heir-achy. Committees, board chairman, volunteer coach, school council. If I didn’t do it, who would? And if I said no I felt guilty!
Learning from experience I know how important it is to nourish YOU. You are the only one responsible for how you spend your time.
Change doesn’t happen overnight so you need to be patient. You will be rewarded.
I took a year off all voluntary activities. It didn’t mean forever. Well that’s what my coach insisted, in order to convince me. And I am so thankful he did. It made me reassess what was working and what wasn’t. What I enjoyed doing and what I didn’t. What drained my energy and what gave me energy.
Have a think about what you are doing that you don’t really enjoy but feel like you ‘should’? There will always be things we ‘have’ to do, but if we have a choice we must choose for our wellbeing. Not for someone else’s agenda.
What’s really imperative is leaving time to schedule in time for the ‘urgent, not important’ stuff. And time for ‘being’ not ‘doing’.
Making time for having FUN every day is highly recommended.
An interesting exercise to get a real idea of how much time is available in your week, is to draft a calendar of what fills your time, including sleep. This is a great way to realise that your expectations may be too high. I recommend doing this for your real week and then for your ideal week and see what they look like, side by side.
Use Google calendar and highlight different departments of your life with different colours.
If paper is your thing, get some colour happening. I love paper but have found having an online calendar really effective and always on hand. It’s less labour intensive too.
The ‘how you fill your time exercise’ is really practical for lot’s of reasons. It helps with saying no without guilt, when you realise how precious your time is. For some reason our brain is really good at telling us we can do it all. We can, but the price is high and the long-term health implications are massive.
Putting yourself first is not selfish. It really is self-care.
Self-care is the best way to reduce stress in your life. Look after you and you will be a hundred times more able to give to others. It starts with saying no. Saying no to the stuff you really don’t want to do, but that voice in your head tells you that you ‘should’.
Saying no helps other people grow.
Instead of thinking, I can’t let that person down by saying no, turn your thinking around. Say no and see what happens. It takes practice and I recommend baby steps, but I promise you that the world will keep spinning.
A friend suggested that men don’t have a problem saying no without feeling guilty. Perhaps there are more men than woman that put themselves first but a lot of men have a dilemma with this too.
I’d love to hear from you with your stories. Have you had an epiphany moment where you realised something had to give or disaster would happen? What has happened when you said yes but you really wanted to say no?
Sharing your thoughts will help me help others and bring less chaos to this world we live in. And wouldn’t that be fabulous!