Does the idea of putting yourself first feel unimaginable? A little like a fairy tale made up by someone who has no idea what it’s like to live your life?
When I first meet clients, the thing I most often hear is that they’d LOVE to put themselves first, it’s just that their life is too hectic to know how to begin.
Between work demands, family and maybe even children - there’s little time for anything but sleep. And time to put yourself first feels like a fantasy.
But, let me ask you something . . . if all of the sudden all of your demands on your time disappeared, would you even know what it means to put yourself first?
I recently had a conversation with a woman named Kirsty who was single, had a great job and little else that stopped her from finding time for herself. She worked out daily, went out with friends, had regular massages and from all outward appearances - she knew what it meant to put herself first.
But the truth is, and this was hard for her to admit, that even though she was the envy of some of her other friends . . . she still didn’t feel like she was doing anything that really put herself first!
In truth, all of the activities she engaged in were designed to simply fill her time.
Kirsty had no real clue what she really wanted or what it meant to put herself first in any meaningful way!
And even though it may feel like an enviable position to be in from where you sit behind the pile of laundry or unattended bills or inbox full of emails, the truth is that she’s miserable and felt like she didn’t have a right to complain.
No matter what your circumstances, chances are that even if you had more time to put yourself first, understanding what that even means for you might be the true struggle.
Once upon a time, putting myself first used to be unimaginable.
I was certainly great at putting others first, but when it came to myself, I would have to be talked into taking time or even buying something nice for myself.
If you’ve read my story before, you already know that just two months before I separated from my husband I bought him a truck and paid for it in cash. But, maybe you didn’t know that during that same time I was actively holding myself back from doing anything for myself - I can remember being in a store with my friend Patty who practically forced me (with grace and love) to try on dresses and actually buy one.
I heard myself making excuses and saying how I really didn’t “need” anything.
I had so many beliefs around putting anyone and everyone ahead of myself that I couldn’t bear to make my wants a priority.
It literally felt awkward and painful in those moments to stretch myself in that way. And while I had the means and arguably the time to put myself first, I just didn’t know how!
Maybe a part of you can relate to some of this as you sit here right now.
Maybe like me, you never really learned how to put your own needs first and have no idea where to start
Or, like Kirsty, maybe you’ve been doing things that make it seem like you’re putting yourself first, but you still feel empty and wish you knew what might actually feel good for you.
When it comes to learning to put yourself first, it’s important to discover what that means to you — it can differ for each of us.
For some, it might mean being able to travel. For others, it might mean curling up with a book at night without interruption. It’s not about the mere act of carving out time, but carving out time for what fills your soul and helps you connect back to yourself.
As I mentioned, when I started taking small steps toward putting myself first, it felt a little uncomfortable - almost as if I was breaking some long-written rule that had to be followed.
But, the more I was able to test out activities, and see the benefit of making my needs a priority, the easier it became to separate myself from ideas that giving myself my undivided attention was somehow wrong.
In fact, the more I started to put myself first, the more I could embrace empowering words like selfish that once made me cringe.
I also realized that like so many others, I held myself back from putting myself first in unproductive ways. Many of us stay busy, exercise, engage in numbing activities we claim to be fun or just go through the motions - just so we don’t have to intimately connect with who we are (or what’s important to us).
It can be eye-opening when you start to tell yourself the truth.
By looking at all the ways you hold yourself back from putting yourself first, you give yourself a chance to create a shift - and real possibility.
It is only when you know what it means to put yourself first, that you can begin to set the boundaries - with yourself and others - that provide you with the space and opportunity to explore and finally feel free to live a more joyful life.
So, today I want you to recognize that you have a choice.
You can continue to deny yourself . . . or you can begin to tell yourself the truth.
Now, I’m not telling you that your life’s not busy - I fully believe you. What I am sharing is that if you’ve been hoping to have a life where your needs have a chance to be met, then it’s time to explore your excuses around putting yourself first and look at all the ways you hide from truly connecting with yourself.
Let’s have a little fun with this.
First, take a few moments to consider what putting yourself first means to you and make some notes in your journal.
Next, it’s time to vent, in your journal, about all the reasons (ahem, the excuses you make) for why you can’t make yourself a priority or put yourself first.
Then, close your eyes for a few minutes and ask yourself what you could do that would truly embody honoring yourself (your time, space, energy, money, etc.) instead of denying yourself.
Now, ask yourself: What belief do I need to release, or what truth do I need to tell myself, in order to honor my needs and put myself first?
Breathe in your commitment to taking this action this week.
Give it a whirl and let me know what you discover!
Putting yourself first doesn’t have to be something that feels like a distant fairy tale. It can be yours to claim - I want to help you find the way.
P.S. Need some more support making yourself, a priority? You’re in luck… my book Permission to Put Yourself First is coming out in a couple weeks and you can pre-order it right now — in fact, the ebook is only $1.99! This is a revamped version of my relationship book with a new title that speaks to what the book is really about! So, if you didn’t get that book – grab this one! And, even if you have the other one, you’ll want this version because there’s an excerpt from my next book in the back!