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Those of you who follow me on social media, especially Instagram, know that last week I travelled to Lyon, France. I promise the travel blog about my experience in Lyon and my recommendations for you if you ever visit this beautiful city is coming soon. However, my flight home inspired me to write about a topic that’s been on my mind for a while. How putting yourself first does not have to be selfish. On the contrary – it can be helpful to others.
Put your mask on first before assisting others
If you’ve travelled by place, you’ve heard the classical safety instructions. One of them refers to the masks to help you breathe. If you paid attention, you might have realized you are told to make sure you have your own mask before you attempt to help others. Interesting? Maybe. Logical though. Definitely logical. If you don’t get your own mask first, you’ll probably pass out or die before you can properly help those next to you. The instructions are not telling you to be selfish. They are telling you to help YOURSELF first, so that you can have the strength and the energy to help others.
How often do you do the activities you love the most, those that make you feel happy and relaxed? The HuffPost has an article about this same topic – putting yourself first – in which they suggest creating a list of things that make you happy. Afterwards write down when the last time you did each of those things was. Are you happy with what you see? Great! Not so happy? You’re not alone. But you need to start changing something ASAP!
Self-care sometimes means saying no and putting YOURSELF first
Saying no is considered in many circumstances to be impolite, an act of defiance, not being a good friend, a good employee, a good human being. We live in a culture that encourages us to be, for lack of a better word, people pleasers. And so we do things even though our hearts tell us they are wrong. We end up in careers and places where we don’t fit, just because we didn’t want to disappoint our families. We end up in the wrong relationship because society tells us being single is bad. Eventually, we become exhausted at work and in our everyday lives because we allow everyone to take advantage of us. Because we can’t say no, we have to help the friend, the coworker, the boss.
When does that stop? Does it stop when we are completely burned out and can’t do it any longer? When you run out of air trying to help others with their masks? Does it stop the day we realize those people we spent so much time saying yes to, won’t return the favor?
Saying no can eventually be an act of self-care. You need to understand that you can’t do it all. And those around you need to understand the same. If they are there for you because you are the friend that is always there, without a doubt or break, they might not be true friends. They might be taking advantage of you. Sure, being a good friend means you’re there for your friends when they need you. But the reverse needs to be true. And sometimes, the reverse might mean that they have to understand sometimes you just can’t do what they need.
YOU first as an act of helping others
I’m sure we all understand the idea behind the safety instructions on the plane. But how does that apply in real life, when we are not in life and death situations? How do you convince others that by putting yourself first, you will help them better? Because, let’s face it, usually people’s reactions won’t be positive. They’ll just assume you don’t want to help, you’re not working hard enough, you’re not a good friend. The truth is this type of opinion might not be easy to change. Not on the spot at least. If someone wants to have a counterargument, they’ll have it.
So how to put YOURSELF first without losing everyone around you? Think about it this way first. When you say yes even though you’re entire heart and body and soul are longing for a break, you set yourself up for failure and exhaustion. So say yes to putting YOURSELF first. It doesn’t have to be a harsh ‘no’ to your friend. It can to be “I’ll charge my batteries and then I’ll help you, because right now I’m exhausted and I’d only make a mess if I tried.”
Prioritize the activities that make you happy. See the list I suggested, from the HuffPost article. You probably can’t do them all in one day, or one weekend. But attempt to do as many as possible. Go for a walk in nature, have coffee with a friend or your significant other, go swimming, or do yoga, read a book. Unplug even if only for an evening. Later, once your batteries are fully recharged, you can help others. Even computers and phones need to be put away once in a while so their batteries can be fully recharged. Why do we as humans feel we need to work non-stop?
Sometimes no is just no
The reality is sometimes you just can’t do it. No will be just no, without “later, after I recharge my batteries”. That’s something you and those around you have to accept it. You can’t do it all. And that’s ok. There’s no honor in working yourself sick. You are not a better friend if you are there for others but never for yourself, till the day you’re completely exhausted. Balance is key. I see more and more are accepting this when it comes to dieting and working out. More and more people agree there needs to be a balance between work life and personal life. And there needs to be a balance in how much you put yourself first versus others. And if it goes two ways and they do the same, you’ll realize friendships can still be strong. You can say no one day and go home to do one of the things on your happiness list and be there for your friend the next day.
You are not for everyone. And if someone cannot accept you need to put yourself first sometimes, they are not for you. Because they simply don’t get you. They need you for something you give to them. They don’t want you as a whole magnificent, unique person. Give yourself time to breath. Time to be. Putting yourself first when you need to, doing it before you completely burn out is not just good for you, it is good for everyone else. And if you need more tips on self-love and self-care, I have another great post about what loving yourself truly means – right here.