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What does putting yourself first really mean?
Putting yourself first has nothing to do with being selfish. Instead, it is about living your life in a way which enables you to achieve and maintain balance and well-being.
Many of us are really bad at putting ourselves first
Every day in every way, I see examples of people not putting themselves first – and mum’s are especially like this, because of their nurturing and caring role for the family.
Why is it important to put yourself first?
By putting yourself first, it is possible to achieve and maintain balance and well-being in your life. If you don’t put yourself first, you will put others ahead of you, and this will detract from your own balance.
How can you put yourself (including your health and well-being) first?
There are lots of ways to put yourself first, but here are a few of my top tips:
*Realize that your needs are just as important as anyone else’s – Many of us regularly put other people’s needs ahead of our own, believing that their needs are more important. We often do this because we all want to be liked and even loved by others. This is especially the case if you have low self-worth, and so if you can relate to this, then you need to work on accepting and loving yourself more fully. This includes practising self-compassion. Essentially you need to believe that your health and well-being are worth fighting for – and they are! This is so important to acknowledge because it’s only once you can do this that you can give yourself permission to put yourself first. And it’s only once you do that, that you are able to be the best version of yourself.
*Set up your Non-Negotiable’s – Most of us live busy lives these days and that’s ok, just as long as you don’t let ‘busyness’ become an excuse for not putting yourself first. A great way to do this is to create some non-negotiable’s. These are things which you must do (your top priorities) regardless of what else is going on in your day. For example, some of my daily non-negotiable’s include; 1hr of exercise, 2hrs for cooking and enjoying a meal, 8 hours sleep time, 1.5hrs undivided attention with my kids, 1/2hr relax and unwind time. And in the hours I have left in-between these activities, I then do what I need to do and that’s often a lot. In-fact, I live a crazy busy life, but the difference is that my busyness is rooted in being/well-being, instead of doing/ill-being – and this makes all of the difference.
If you’re not sure what your non-negotiable’s should be, start with all of the attributes of what you chew and do, because they are all essential to living a more balanced life. Once you figure these out, then literally block out time on your calendar to do them. Possibly use one colour for work/available time and another colour for your non-negotiable/unavailable time. Then ensure that you stick to it. On the odd occasion where this slides, instead of getting angry at yourself, just look at what you can do next time to better protect your non-negotiable time.
I also strongly suggest you become a morning person if you are not already one – this is often the best time to get things done when you are busy.
*Get really good at saying ‘No’
‘Being busy is different to being over-committed which is what happens when you cannot say no.’
If there is one trait that all really successful people have in common, it’s that they are all good at saying ‘no.’ This is because they understand that time is a finite resource, meaning you really only have so much of it. It’s important to understand that every time you say ‘yes’ to something, you are effectively say ‘no’ to something else. For example, when you say yes to working overtime, then you may be saying no to cooking dinner, no to going to the gym, no to spending time with your kids, or anything else. In other words everything is a trade-off, and it’s ok to do this, just as long as your life is in balance. If not, then you need to get really good at saying no, which in the beginning, can be much more difficult than saying yes. This is because whilst trying not to care what other people think of us, we all want to be liked. And by saying no we think we are being selfish, but even worse, other people might think that we are being selfish.
So how do we get good at saying no? First you must have a go-to-response when people ask you for favours. Something simple like, “That doesn’t work for me at this time”—is sufficient. Saying no is also much easier to do when you reconnect with and are clear about your priorities – otherwise your reasons for saying no seem unimportant, and it’s easier just to say yes. It’s also important to tell the truth too – untrue excuses lead to further entanglements and greater stress. Lying sends your unconscious the message that there’s something wrong with saying no – which is untrue. Once you have made your decision then stick to it, instead of letting yourself being talked out of it. Do this by focusing on the good things that will come from saying no, and not the regret or guilt you might feel from saying yes when you really didn’t want to.
*Outsource – Outsourcing small portions of your life allows you to save time and spend it elsewhere – including on yourself. If you are over-committed and find it hard to get everything done, then sometimes it’s a good idea to hire some external help. This could include things like washing, ironing, cleaning, admin work, odd handyman jobs, or anything else. Websites such as airtasker have made this process easier and more affordable than ever before. Outsource everything that will lighten your load, simplify your life, and put yourself first without feeling bad about it.
*Listen to how you feel – Try to become more mindful of how you feel- both mentally and physically. Are you hydrated? Are you stressed? Are you tired? Are your muscles tight? Are you low on energy? By becoming more aware of how you feel, you can better monitor whether or not you are in balance. If you are not in balance, then you need to put yourself first, and less energy into everything else.
*Don’t wait forever to put yourself first – Many of us seem to be waiting for a clearing period in our life or that ‘one day’ where we will have the time, money and focus to put ourselves, including our well-being first. I know this because I coach people all of the time who eventually come and see me after a lifetime of always putting their well-being last. Often they are in such terrible shape – both physically and mentally, that it’s difficult to undo the many years of neglect.
If you were good at creating a clearing in your life, you would have had one by now. When was the last time you actually arrived at the perfect time and place, with all of the time, money and focus you needed? It’s a fairytale! Begin it now rather than waiting for all the lights to turn green.
Putting yourself first is essential when it comes to living a more balanced, and therefore a happier, healthier, fitter life. If you are not putting yourself first, then you are not living true – both to yourself and to the ones whom you love the most. Whilst putting yourself first may be difficult in the beginning, it quickly gets easier as you begin to realise just how much better your feel and function. So much so that you will begin to get annoyed at yourself when you haven’t put yourself first, at which point it will become habitual and part of your everyday lifestyle.
Q.Is your life in balance and if not, then when and how will you start putting yourself first?
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