I wrote the following post for Love Magazine a few months ago and wanted to share it with all my email subscribers. Hope you find it helpful!
The word selfish has a negative connotation. It brings up images of a greedy person who will make themselves feel better at the expense of others. Although there are times where selfishness can hurt other people, there are certain times that you must be selfish in order to improve yourself and your relationships.
Let me explain. We’ve all heard the example of the flight attendant telling passengers to put the oxygen mask on first before helping others. Well, if you try to help a passenger out first before putting on your own mask, you could possibly pass out, unable to help the other passenger. Now there are two people that are helpless.
In relationships, we tend to put other’s needs before our own. And this isn’t necessarily a good thing. You can become resentful, burn out, and get sick.
Most likely, you are the backbone of your family. People depend on you to get things done. You bring home the money, cook, clean, run people around, and organize family life. If you’re the one doing all of this, what happens when you get sick, can’t work, or just can’t be present for them? This is precisely why you must put yourself first. Here are four ways you can begin to put yourself first starting today.
1. Set boundaries with your time. If you say “yes” every time someone asks you to do something, you’ll quickly burn yourself out. Give yourself a limit of how many things you’ll be able to get done every week. If someone tries to volunteer you to do something, just reply, “Thank you for asking, but I already have a full schedule this week. Maybe next time.” If you feel that things just can’t get done without you, remember that they will find someone else to help. If you have trouble saying “no” to things, remember that every time you say “yes” to something, you’re saying “no” to something else.
A word of caution: Some people might not like that you’re setting boundaries. They’re used to you doing everything and they were sort of trained this way. Just remind yourself that there may be an adjustment period both for you and those around you.
Setting boundaries with your time, allows you to use your time effectively. We all have twenty-four hours in a day. No one has more, no one has less. So why is it that some people seem to get so much done, while others get very little done in a day? It’s primarily because those that get things done know how to manage their time effectively.
Setting boundaries are healthy. You’re taking care of your own mental health while modeling realistic limits to those around you.
2. Schedule some me time. Pencil in time in your calendar to do something that relaxes you. (If you don’t have a planner, having one will also help you stay organized with your time.) Make it an appointment and priority. It could be giving yourself a break for as little as 10 minutes. If you think you don’t have 10 minutes for yourself, please re-read #1.
This time is supposed to be something that relaxes and re-energizes you. It could be anything from watching a funny YouTube video on your phone before picking the kids up, taking a hot shower a little longer than usual, painting your nails, driving home the long way to have alone time in the car, taking a supportive friend out for lunch, reading, etc. The activity itself does not matter as long as it’s something that you enjoy. Schedule a personal activity every week, ideally every day.
3. Ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign that you know your limits. Plus, delegating makes you feel empowered. If there’s something that takes up a lot of your time, see if you could either hire it done or just simply ask one of your family members to pitch in. It’s not fair for you to be in a cranky mood because you have too much going on, when you choose to do everything and not ask for help.
4. Do something that you love. Who said that we have to live boring, routine lives when we grow up?! If you do something you love for a living, congratulations. But it doesn’t have to necessarily be something you get paid to do. When was the last time you wrote, painted, played an instrument or went for a run? Make it a priority to do something that you truly enjoyed doing before, but may have neglected.
When you are feeling happy and relaxed, it rubs off on others and creates a positive domino effect. Therefore, putting yourself first is not a selfish mindset. It benefits you and everyone around you. You are the leader of your pack. Lead by example and you’ll start to see the rewards.