Do you want to have stronger relationships with others? You might think that having strong relationships with others means to do things for them and to take care of
them. It’s a paradox because the truth is, to have strong relationships with others means that you must first have a strong relationship with yourself. To have that strong relationship with yourself, you must do things for yourself. You must put yourself first.
It takes a lot of courage to put yourself first.
Of course I’m not suggesting that you abandon your family or your responsibilities. What I am suggesting is that if you are always giving to others and never replenishing your own reservoir of mental, emotional and physical energy, you’ll soon run out of anything to give to others.
That may have happened to you already. If you’re chronically tired, feel resentful or are short-tempered, if the volunteer work you do feels like an obligation rather than a joy, if you feel torn in many directions and long for just a little time for yourself, you have not put yourself first on your list. You’re in dead last.
Filling your days with obligations to others is a strong sign you’re afraid to know yourself or that you believe you don’t deserve to have the things you need.
Gather your courage and put yourself at the top of your to-do list.
How to Put Yourself First
Listen to your life, it will tell you what you need to know. Whatever it is that your heart is telling you, write it down. Then write down what you have to do differently in your life.
If the volunteer work you’re doing feels more like an obligation than a reward, then get out of the way and let someone else experience the pleasure of that volunteer activity.
If too much of your time is spent cooking and cleaning, maybe it is time your children pick up a few more household chores, so that they learn those skills and what it means to be responsible to others. Perhaps it is time your spouse show how he or she values equality by taking on a few non-traditional household responsibilities. Or maybe it is time to accept some imperfections. Dust is not a sin. Let someone else win ‘yard of the month.’
It can be hard to have those conversations with your family or volunteer organizations. You will need to draw on the courage of your conviction that you are important enough to put yourself first. To boost your courage, share your commitment to put yourself first with a close friend who is willing to be your accountability partner. Your accountability partner won’t be afraid to challenge you to stay on the course you’ve set for yourself.
Reinforce your courage by starting each day by telling yourself two things. One: “I am important.” Two: “I have a choice.”
What Changes When You Put Yourself First
You will be amazed at what happens once you start putting yourself on your schedule. You’ll feel like a different person. You may even look like a different person. You may find yourself making different choices about a range of things. Don’t worry about any of that now. It’s all part of your goal to get to know yourself so that you can have better relationships with others.
Taking care of your own needs is what allows you to be authentic and vulnerable and be just who you are. Taking care of your own needs is what allows you to be open to meaningful relationships.
You will find that those who love you will still love you just as you are. The love you feel from others comes from within them. It is not something that you create or earn through taking care of their physical or emotional needs.
When you recognize what it means to take care of yourself, you actually become better at giving care to others. Paradoxically, this happens in part because you begin to recognize the things they need to do for themselves. Doing things for others that they need to do for themselves isn’t really taking care of them, it’s controlling them. It also happens because by giving less in quantity, you’re able to give more in quality.
Saying no to others means you are saying yes to yourself.
When you start to feel guilt or remorse because you have put yourself first, show yourself loving kindness. Say to yourself, “I understand.” Remind yourself that what sounds like a no to others is really a yes to yourself. You are special. Your needs are just as important as anyone’s. Start today by putting your own needs at the top of your list.
My willingness to be intimate with my own deep
feelings creates the space for intimacy with another.
Live Honest, Open and True
Putting yourself first does not make you self-centered, irresponsible, or unlovable. Putting yourself first means you appreciate the lovable and worthy person you are. Only when you take care of your relationship with yourself are you a complete version of yourself. Only then can you have deep and meaningful relationships with others.
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Tweet: If You Don’t Put Yourself First, Who Will? A blog post by D’Anne Hotchkiss
Do you find it hard to put yourself first, even when you know you want to and resent others for the demands they place on you? Tell me about it in the comments or tweet me @lifeishotblog with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT!