I know we have all been on the receiving end of “look after yourself” or “take care of yourself” after catching up with people and you have gone away just saying “thank you, you too”. Once you turn around, you have not given that statement a second thought. I know it is hard to ‘take care’ and ‘look after’ yourself with everything going on around you where you are constantly looking after and taking care of others.
Why is it hard for many of us to do things for ourselves before we do things for others? Maybe we believe that the “good” person sacrifices his/herself for his/her family, friends and work. Maybe it is because humans, especially women, seem to feel responsible for everything and they have the feeling to lead the way but somehow, we get from being “helpful” to “I’ll just do it myself because it is easier”. This mindset is not healthy because when you take this on in all aspects of your life you will not even have time to scratch your head.
Taking on responsibilities that might be well or even better handled by others is one of the ways we begin to lose our balance and slide down the slippery slope from generosity and helpfulness to martyrdom. Because women are likely to be the primary caretakers for their families, we have a lot of opportunity to fall into the pattern of serving the people around us before we serve ourselves. But there are good reasons to be sensible about that. If you always put someone else first, there is a tendency for others to depreciate you, to lose respect even. This is because respect comes from an understanding that the other person, you, have his/her own duties which are important as well. If you continually put your duties and needs aside than people will start, unconsciously, think and/or feel that their needs are important enough for you to put your own needs aside.
Think of it this way, when you take care of yourself and you are in a ‘good headspace’ you may improve your capacity to care for others. You are only able to see other people through the filter of your own needs. There are multiple studies that suggest that when you are not taking care of yourself it is unhealthy for those who depend upon us.
I will touch on 4 situations in your life where it is important to put yourself first:
1) At work: you may find yourself helping people around you, your team, the children, families, your manager – everyone. They may all like you for being so approachable but you may find that as you keep saying yes, the requests will keep coming in and soon enough you may be asked to do personal requests and then soon enough, you will not be able make everyone happy. This may be because, when you approach work requests personally, people may take it personally when you start to say no which can hinder your relationship.
Instead, try to apply a reliable structure into your work by setting your own expectations alongside your job description. By doing so, you can relieve the unnecessary guilt of not being able to please everyone all at the same time. When you implement something for yourself that is consistent where people can rely on you for certain things, you need to turn them down, he/she will most likely not take it personally.
2) On your own: how much time do you actually devote to yourself, throughout the week? I am not asking about taking time out to meet your responsibilities like work, family and friends but some time where you are able to talk/think about just being on your own, with your own thoughts.
I know this may seem like a huge request, but try to put aside a small portion of your day where you can be your absolute self. You only need enough time where you can reflect and re-evaluate your priorities of the day. To clear your head-space and ‘scratch your head’ if needed. It may sound like a lot of time and effort that you “simply cannot afford” but try and put some time aside where you can just sit and ‘be’.
3) In your relationship: love can make, even the shyest person a little more confident and the unromantics into Casanovas. When one is driven by love, one may see themselves making short and long term goals.
It is when you find yourself in a relationship that you need to make more of an effort to put yourself first, even by keeping up with your own interest and hobbies as you become entwined with your partner. This is to ensure that you give yourself a little attention every now and then. When you find yourself neglecting your hobbies and friends you will eventually feel the effects of it. Put yourself first by knowing and nurturing who you are beyond your relationship. Use some of your drive to please yourself without your partner at times and do not forget to have a night out with your friends without your partner. By keeping your individuality, you are not putting pressure on your relationship and your relationship being your main source of fulfillment.
4) With friends: you will see that as individuals, you are constantly evolving and as your group of friends individually evolve you shape each other as well. As we all try to figure ourselves out we try to fit in with others around us and all we really want is to be around friendships that stem naturally from and with our lifestyles. When you are surrounded by people who are similar to you or to the person/people you strive to become, you no longer need to sacrifice yourself to make the friendships work.
Put yourself first by encouraging and developing friendships with people who share your same drive and passions. Be around people that allow you to shine by just being yourself.
Putting time aside for yourself may seem like a ‘selfish’ act but you are actually doing a selfless thing. By looking after yourself, you can be a better person for those that need you at work and in your life. It is only logical, because if you are relaxed, more confident in yourself and clear minded you are more likely to be able to help someone patiently and with care than if you would if you were busy in all aspects of yourself.
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