The Importance Of Putting Yourself First
Am I selfish? I like to think not. As a friend, daughter, wife, mother (to two small young children), colleague and neighbour, I like to think I am kind, loving, thoughtful and always rooting for the ones I love. And yet despite this, I’m happy to my stick my hand up and say I put myself first. It’s not something many women will admit to. In fact, I am struggling to think of anyone who would own up to that. The idea of writing this piece actually came to me during a 2 hour cupping session in the middle of a working day. Did I feel guilty? Hell no. I was alleviating back pain and had got up extra early that morning in order to get my work done on time.
The very idea of putting yourself first is anathema to most women. The women I know (and not all of them are harassed mothers to young children) nearly never put themselves first. They are so busy running around, working, caring for others that they forget to look after themselves. Most of them are exhausted; many of them are ill quite regularly. And I wonder why so many of them (fabulous, strong-minded, clever, highly educated women) have bought into the -sorry there is no other word – crap idea that they have to sacrifice everything they are and put themselves last on their list of priorities in order to be a good wife, mother, daughter or friend.
Far from being selfish, when you put yourself first you are taking responsibility for yourself, which has always struck me as quite a sensible thing to do. Also, when you put yourself first, EVERYTHING in your life benefits. Loving and looking after yourself, ie taking the time to sleep properly, eat well, breathe, exercise means that we can all live up to the many, many roles we take on. When you value your emotional health as well as your physical health, you are SO much more better equipped to take on any of the challenges that are chucked your way. There’s a very slippery slope between putting others first and eye-rolling martyrdom.
Instead what most women do is feel guilty. Feeling guilty is the biggest time waster. As a full time working mother who is as stretched as the next person, I’m telling you, I have no time to feel guilty. N.B Most men don’t feel guilty or waste time endlessly procrastinating. When I had my babies, I was struck by stories of new mothers who said they never had time to shower or felt guilty if they stopped and enjoyed their lunch. How did we get to the point where our basic daily routine feels like an indulgence? Sleep and food power you through your day. How long do you expect to run on empty?
One friend decided to put herself first and she was more than surprised by the results. She noticed how eating proper, nutritious food and doing some exercise not only vastly improved her mood but how she interacted with her husband, friends and children. She was less snappy and more upbeat. She was calm in situations where she might have previously lost her temper. She was less prone to doubt, negative feelings and introspection. She was happier and felt she made better judgments and decisions. All that from just taking the time to eat well and do a work out. You do have to wonder why anyone has ever considered an alternative.
She also noticed that – surprise surprise – no one died if they didn’t get something as soon as they’d asked for it. I’ve observed too, that if you always put others first, far from people being grateful, it can have the opposite effect. There’s the tendency to take you for granted. You are a hop, skip and a jump from being a doormat. Possibly because people sense you don’t value or respect yourself. When you put yourself first, others (and not only small children), learn quicker where your boundaries lie. I would like my daughters to grow up full of self-respect and not take anything lying down. But in order for them to learn that, they need to see others behaving like that.
Simply, I don’t buy into martyrdom. In my book, nothing is as boring (or as a miserable) as a moaning martyr. You’ve met the kind before. The office drudge, the really harassed person who is ALWAYS DOING and looks 100. It’s a bit nauseating. The irony is that far from scoring brownie points, the drudge ends up repelling others. It’s human nature to look up to someone who is full of energy, who is positive and dynamic and fulfilled. You want to be near that person; be that person even. To all mums: do you want your children to remember you as the tired, strung out moaner or the happy person who did interesting things which made her feel happy and fulfilled.
As a wise friend said recently, taking care of yourself really means giving yourself permission to be wherever you are and to do what ever you’re doing without guilt and without pressure to do more, or be more, or have more. We don’t celebrate Mother’s Day in our house. Aside from the fact that it feels like the biggest load of commercial baloney, who really wants to feel it is the one day of the year when they are appreciated, receive flowers or get to ‘stick their feet up’. Come on that is only one day out of 365. Frankly I’d even take being being labeled selfish (rightly or wrongly) any time.