Growing up as a child I was always being told to “put others first.”
I heard it hundreds of times. I heard it from my teachers, from my parents, at church.
And I did.
I listened to others’ problems.
I said “yes” to every request and invite, even when deep down my body was screaming no.
My empathetic personality traits didn’t help. I would feel guilty saying no to a friend when I didn’t feel like going to that bar. My mind would go in frantic circles believing that I was the worst friend in the world. I felt like I was responsible for other people’s happiness, often forgetting about my own.
I ended up feeling depleted, and as though I had nothing left to give. That’s when I realized I had forgotten about something so important: self-care.
That I had feelings too, that I had needs, and that sometimes it really is okay to put yourself before others.
Truth is: too much people-pleasing can lead to depression and anxious feelings.
I wish someone had told me these things too when I was younger:
1. You can say “no” to anything and everything.
Yep, that’s right. You can say “no.” You can say “no” to that birthday invite, that coffee date, and “no” to your partner when they’re in the mood but you’re not.
It’s hard, I know. But sometimes it’s more harmful to not be assertive. If you are only doing things to please other people, you will probably start loathing yourself—and the other person or people involved.
If the other person is not okay with your “no,” then maybe you should reconsider if it’s worth keeping them in your life anyway.
A person who truly loves and respects you will be okay with you not saying yes all the time.
2. You don’t have to answer that call or text immediately (or at all).
Fifteen missed calls and 33 unread texts. Panic!
Many of us are glued to our smartphones. We often feel obliged to reply to our friends or colleagues right away. And those nagging, little red notifications in the corner really don’t help.
If you don’t feel like talking to anyone at that moment, you don’t have to. You can switch off your phone or set times where you won’t be answering or replying to any texts or calls.
Those dreaded blue WhatsApp ticks confirming a message has been read often make us feel as though we must respond promptly. But it’s healthy to give ourselves a breather once in a while.
P.S: changing your WhatsApp settings so that the blue ticks no longer show may save you a lot of stress.
3. It is important that you speak your truth.
You don’t have to agree with everything other people say. You are your own person; you have your own opinions, thoughts, and perspectives. And that is perfectly fine.
If someone hurts or offends you in any way, you shouldn’t have to sit back and stay quiet. Tell them you did not like their comment or did not appreciate the way they made you feel.
So many of us live in fear of upsetting others or avoid confrontation at all costs. In reality, bottling up emotions can harm us even more in the long run.
Stand your ground. Nobody should feel comfortable walking all over you.
4. It is more than okay to spend time alone.
Alone time is beneficial for recharging our batteries and discovering ourselves better. Sometimes we just don’t feel like being sociable and will prefer a night in watching a movie.
Don’t feel guilty about this. As much as social interaction is important for your mental well-being, so is spending time alone. Find things that you enjoy, and do them. Replenish your spirit.
5. It is okay to distance yourself from toxic people.
You really don’t have to tolerate people who give you bad “gut feelings.” That strange feeling you get in your gut about someone rarely fails. Trust it; it is probably telling you something.
If you get the impression somebody is using you, abusing you, or manipulating you in any way, kindly walk away. You are not obliged to stick around and accept it just because you don’t want any conflict.
You deserve just as much love, support, and care as you give the people around you.
Set boundaries. Be selfish. Walk away when you aren’t being treated the right way. It won’t make you a bad person.
I’m not saying to go out there and be the most egocentric person; there should be a healthy balance. It feels good to give, but if you are pouring from an empty glass, you are harming yourself in the long run.
You might even realize that meeting your own needs first will enable you to help others even more effectively.
Nobody else can save you. You have to save yourself.