“In everyone’s life there comes a time when you lose yourself. You lose yourself in pain, in passion, in another person, in your daily routine, in your job, in your dreams about the future, in the worries about the present or the grieve about times long past. I, like everyone, got lost along the way, perhaps I was lost just a little more than most people. I was caught up in what seems like a chronic inability to be happy, to live in the moment, because I kept putting everything and everyone before myself, but in the long run, I lost more than I gained and I reached a point of not only physical, but also mental exhaustion that took a long while to recover from.
In light of mental health awareness week (May 14-20), I have decided to talk about putting yourself first and why it’s important that everyone of us, while remaining empathetic, loving adults, learns that taking care of your mental and physical wellbeing is more important than any (social) obligations ever.
First of all, it’s important to realise that, putting yourself first, is not, in no way, ever selfish, but, simply-put, a survival mechanism; we’re exhausted – we rest – we feel refreshed, we’re hurt – we take time to heal – we get better. That’s how it’s supposed to be. But, let’s be honest, we’ve all gone to work with the worst cold in the world, we’ve all pulled numerous all-nighters to meet a deadline, we’ve all attended parties on nights when all we wanted to do was curl up on the couch, eat ice cream and watch TV or just go straight to bed, we’ve all met up with friends, visited our grandparents or watched our neighbour’s cat, because five weeks ago we promised we would. Now, the thing is, obviously there are times we absolutely can’t cancel, there are times we have to dress up, show up and impress, no matter what. But in order to be able to push through these things, we need balance and sometimes, taking a day off of work is just the balance we need. Let’s look at phones, for example – when our phone’s battery dies, what happens? It turns off and needs to be recharged. And what do we do? We plug it in and let it recharge. When our car runs out of gas, what happens? It stops. It breaks down in the middle of the road, because it just can’t go on anymore. And what do we do in order to prevent this? We refill the gas regularly. See, what I’m getting at? We take care of everyday-objects, we let them recharge, we let them refill, we let them rest, however, too often we don’t allow ourselves to just take a break, to recharge. Why? Because we think we don’t deserve a break? Because we think we don’t work hard enough? Because what we do isn’t good enough? Because we think it’s selfish? Because society established a certain picture of what it means to be successful in our heads? Because, growing up, we were told we need to do what our teacher says? Because – oh my God – what will the others think? My colleagues? My friends? Will my friends hate me if I cancel our plans? There are unlimited excuses as to why we decide to put others first, so let me give you 10 reasons, why you should be putting yourself first.
- YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PUT YOURSELF ON FIRE TO KEEP OTHERS WARM
Sure, helping people is rewarding, but don’t keep giving it your all if you receive nothing in return. Those of us in a job, are often required to do overtime again and again and again and again. But keep in mind, you are not your job. Don’t kill yourself for a job that would replace you within a week.
- YOU’RE ALREADY DOING THE BEST YOU CAN
Be kind to yourself – you’re doing your best and sometimes, just getting up in the morning is the biggest achievement and that’s okay.
- IT’S OKAY TO ADMIT WEAKNESS
Taking care of yourself is by no means a weakness, but a sign of strength. But sometimes, admitting that you can’t do something might feel like failure. It’s not. It’s okay and healthy to realise you’re not able or ready to do something.
- YOUR HEALTH COMES FIRST
Nothing is ever more important than your health and mental wellbeing.
- STOP SAYING YES TO THINGS YOU DON’T WANT TO DO
I’m sure you have that one friend with all the ideas, ‘Let’s have coffee tomorrow, let’s have brunch Sunday morning, let’s go see a movie, climb a mountain, conquer the world…’ I love all my friends and I enjoy spending time with them. But sometimes it gets too much, doesn’t it? And you end up cancelling, coming up with the strangest excuses, ‘Sorry, I need to water my neighbour’s plants every three hours.’ Your friend knows you’re lying and you feel bad. It’s okay to just say no. ‘No, I don’t feel like meeting up today, no, today I just want to be by myself.’ Your friends won’t hate you. They feel the same way every now and then.
- DON’T SPEND YOUR LIFE AT WAR WITH YOURSELF
I used to keep forcing myself to do things I thought I needed to do, when every part of myself kept screaming no. But my sense of responsibility was always louder. I had a war inside my head and – after a while – all it did, was make me ill.
- SILENCE IS GOLDEN
Sometimes we just need silence, keep to ourselves and breathe.
- TREAT YOURSELF LIKE YOU TREAT YOUR BEST FRIEND
We tend to always put others first, but sometimes, we need to take a step back and treat ourselves like our best friend. Because, in the end, there is no one you spend more time with than yourself. When you’re feeling bad, ask yourself – if my best friend called me and told me they weren’t feeling well, what would I do to make them feel better? And then we do those exact things for ourselves.
- THINGS TAKE TIME
Healing takes time, getting better takes time, learning takes time… everything takes time. And that’s okay. Take your time. And – most importantly:
- DON’T FEEL GUILTY FOR DOING WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU
Be kind to yourself, every day a little more :)”
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