I come from a family of “do-gooders” who were raised to think of other people before ourselves.
It’s a wonderful value to be raised with for all intents and purposes, but it’s not so good if we want to be our best selves for people.
I started the “do-gooding” and putting other people’s needs before my own at a very young age. I never wanted to let anyone down so I said yes to everything.
Every invitation that came my way, every phone call that came in from a friend needing advice, every favor that was asked of me. I ran myself so ragged that it was customary for me to be either:
1) Sick from never slowing down
2) Overwhelmed and stressed, or
3) A total bitch when I hit the wall.
This was not good for anyone involved.
It wasn’t until I had children that I learned to put myself first. Ironically, this tends to normally be the time of your life that we are told that the child now comes before ourselves and our needs.
That doesn’t work.
I spent the first year after my son was born constantly sick, constantly crying and constantly miserable. My husband at the time was a God send, and really carried the weight of how difficult it was to be first time parents. He forced me to eat a meal, forced me to drink water, encouraged me to go get a massage or go out with friends. He let me know it was perfectly okay to think about myself.
So it was then that I learned to think a little more selfishly so I could be a true “do-gooder” for others. And by that I mean a person who shows up 100 percent.
When I started to put my oxygen mask on first, I was able to breathe life into other people.
It’s amazing what you can do when you can actually take a breath of air.
Self-care is not optional anymore. It’s mandatory in order to operate at full throttle in our lives. So the way I see it, self-care is truly an unselfish act.
It may not seem that way at first…but think about how resentful and miserable you end up being towards the people you love most when you’re not doing it.
When I stopped answering every text and phone call that came in, I found I was able to be available for the one or two friends who had a genuine crisis and really needed me to be there—100 percent present and focused on holding space for them.
When I found time for yoga and meditation in my busy schedule, my physical, emotional and spiritual well-being improved so dramatically I became a different person. One filled with love and compassion for others.
When I allowed myself time away from my kids (something a lot of moms refuse to do), I became much more patient and present with them.
Everybody’s needs and responsibilities are different. I’m not saying we should throw all of our responsibilities to the wayside and run out to pamper ourselves on a daily basis, though. What I’m suggesting is that we look at each area of our lives and ask ourselves what we need in order to be the best version of ourselves.
Ask yourself these questions:
1) What do I need to feel good about myself physically?
2) What activities make me feel energized and joyful?
3) How much alone time do I really need?
4) What things can I let go of to give myself more time to do these things?
Once you’ve answered these questions, then ask yourself:
1) What is the cost of me allowing my needs to not be met?
2) What am I getting by constantly telling myself “I can’t do that?”
3) What would it take to start putting myself first?
4) Who can I ask for support to get it?
We have to start getting clear about what fuels our own sense of well-being and than make those things a priority. The To-do list we carry around daily is just going to get longer… putting yourself at the bottom means you’ll never get to yourself.
So why not put yourself on top?
When I started putting myself on top, my life changed.
I became more calm and centered.
I appreciated the smallest things in my life because I had the mental energy to actually notice them.
I started hearing every small thing my children said to me because I was aware and present instead of spinning out of control trying to multi-task on fumes while I was with them.
I becomes truly happy with the quality of my life.
By setting boundaries and putting my own needs first, I became whole again. A woman able to give more of myself to others than ever before.
So consider being a bit more selfish in your life by practicing extreme self-care. It may end up being one of the most un-selfish things you do for the people you care about most in your life.
Author: Dina Strada
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Alicja at tookapic.com