In Martha Stout’s book “The Sociopath Next Door“, she opens up her introduction with the following: “Imagine–if you can–not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members.”
I remember reading that and thinking, “What’s the problem? That would be heavenly!” No, I don’t really want to be a sociopath without a conscience, not caring what happens to others, willing to walk-over and destroy everyone around me to get what I want.
I do think there is some merit to taking time for yourself and what you care about, without the guilt of always being concerned about others to the point where you put everyone else’s needs before your own.
In a way that’s a controversial thought, in a way it isn’t. Certainly Oprah started the “Me” movement decades ago, which is all about looking after what “I” need, what “I” want, so what I’m saying isn’t new. At the same time, there is still so much pressure, so much guilt put on us, especially on women, still, to look after everyone else, to put our needs second, that when someone calls, asks for help, asks a favour, we are supposed to, we are required to, drop what we’re doing to respond.
In the workshops I lead, this question comes up all the time: How can I put myself first? I often think there is an expectation that I will have a pat answer, a trick or tip on how to make other people respect boundaries or to not need so much. I always respond with another question:
Why do think you are unworthy of being first?
Conversely, What makes you worthy of being first?
Why shouldn’t you be first?
I know, I know, society makes us feel guilty if we make ourselves a priority. And that guilt is not easy to dispel. So let’s take that guilt into account as we work this out.
Think about the time you spend writing, looking after yourself and your needs. What do you get out of that time? More energy? Happiness? Experience? You’ve learned something new? You’re healthier? What else?
Take all that you have gained and think about how much that helps you grow as a person. When we grow as people, when we are happier, healthier, more knowledgeable, we have more to offer those around us, those who depend on us.
So, no, I’m not saying you should put yourself first always and to not care about the well-being of others all the time. I’m saying to do it enough that you can grow as a person, be happy with who you are, and have more to offer.
We’ve all heard it: If you don’t look after yourself, no one will. It’s true. Have you heard this? If we don’t put ourselves first, we are teaching others that we are not worthy of being first. Others treat us the way we teach them to treat us.
Join the conversation! What makes you worthy of being first? What do you gain from putting yourself first, looking after your needs, your goals? What will you commit to doing this week to put yourself and your goals first?