How many times have you woken up in the morning and thought, “I have the flu, but if I do not go into work, my colleague will have to pick up the slack.” Or at night thought, “I really want to stay in tonight, but I promised my best friend I would celebrate their promotion.” This is a very common dilemma that people face every day. As is often the case in our society, putting others first is rewarded, and taking care of you can be deemed as “selfish.” It can be challenging to actually want to prioritize your needs. While putting others first ahead of yourselves can be act of empathy and kindness for others, it may also be detrimental to your own well-being.
What Does Prioritizing You Really Mean?
Okay, so you may be getting the sense that prioritizing yourself means consistently putting yourself over others. That is not the case! Prioritizing yourself means creating a healthy balance between taking time for you and for others. Prioritizing yourself means not “squeezing” your self-care into your busy lifestyle, or doing things “when you have the time.” It means making self-care an important part of your day and/or week.
I often discuss the importance of self-care in therapy. In a previous blog, I have discussed that self-care is more than exercising, eating healthy, or taking a bath. Self-care means listening to your body, understanding what your needs are, and making sure that they get met! Self-care helps you feel full, recharged, and ready to take on your obligations.
In order to acquire the benefits of self-care, you must know what your needs are. Often when we lose sight of making ourselves a priority, we lose sight of what we actually want or need in our lives. We continue to live a life that prioritizes others, and we get caught up in their own wants and needs and end up focusing on them. To consider yourself a priority and understanding your needs, it may be helpful to practice self-awareness by remaining present with yourself by using grounding or mindfulness techniques.
After understanding what your needs are, you may need to set healthy boundaries with those in your life. This may be something as small as turning your phone on silent throughout the night and communicating to your friends that you are unavailable after 10:00pm. This could also be something firmer, such as refusing to speak with a toxic family member, whom makes you feel terrible about yourself for hours after speaking with them. When you make yourself a priority, you learn that not everyone deserves to be in your life at the capacity they are currently there.
Would You Give the Same Advice to Your Friend?
We often have an “inner critic” in our head telling us negative things about ourselves. Our inner critic often communicates unrealistic expectations for us, such as “I should be able to handle this.” When we are not able to meet our unrealistic expectations, we may at times feel guilty for not being able to handle everything. Now think, if our friend was telling us all the things that they feel responsible for doing, would we tell them that they are not doing enough, or would we be more compassionate, and tell them they need a break?
If you struggle with the dilemma of wanting to please others over taking care of yourself, it may be helpful to connect with a therapist! Contact Symmetry Counseling today to get connected with one of our talented clinicians!