In a world that often encourages selflessness and prioritizing the needs of others, choosing yourself can be a profound challenge. The act of putting your own needs, desires, and well-being at the forefront of your life can be a transformative but difficult journey. Society often lauds selflessness as a virtuous quality.
From a young age, you are taught the importance of sharing, helping others, and being empathetic. While these values contribute to the betterment of our communities and the world at large, they can also create contradictory situations when it comes to prioritising you. The idea of choosing yourself can be met with skepticism or even guilt, as it may seem to run counter to the very values in which you were raised. Individuals may grapple with feelings of selfishness, fear of judgment from others, and a lack of harmony between their own needs and societal expectations.
Choosing yourself is not an act of selfishness; rather, it is a declaration of self-worth. It is a recognition that your needs and desires are just as valid as anyone else’s. The most significant hurdle of making you the priority is the fear of disappointing others or facing social exclusion. This fear often arises from the societal expectation that you should always be available to meet the needs of others.
However, the truth is that self-prioritisation does not mean neglecting responsibilities or relationships. It means finding a balance that allows you to nurture your own well-being while also being available to others in a healthier and more sustainable way. Self-prioritisation is closely tied to the concept of self-care. Self-care is not about indulgence but about ensuring that you are mentally, emotionally, and physically well. You must:
Þ Release the Guilt: Guilt manifests when you say no to commitments that may compromise your well-being, or when you invest time and resources in your own growth and happiness. Choosing yourself is not synonymous with neglecting others. Commit to self-improvement.
Þ Set Boundaries: Boundaries are essential for maintaining a sense of self and ensuring that you are not overwhelmed by the needs and demands of others. Boundaries can be physical, emotional, or even digital. Protect your energy to prevent you from being constantly drained by external influences.
Þ Be Self-Aware: Delve deep into your desires, values, and passions to uncover your strengths and weaknesses, explore your interests, understand your purpose in life, and align your actions.
Þ Manage External Expectations: Deeply ingrained expectations come from family, friends, employers, or societies at large leading to feelings of obligation and guilt. Make choices that align with your values, even when they deviate from the expectations of others.
Þ Be the Best Version of Yourself: When you prioritize your own growth and happiness, you become more resilient, empathetic, and effective in your interactions with others. Bring your best self to challenging interactions.
Þ Have Self-Compassion: Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a close friend. It is a counterbalance to self-criticism. Embrace setbacks and mistakes as opportunities for growth.
Þ Accept the Process of Change: Choosing yourself is not a one-time decision but an ongoing process. Continuously self-reflect, adapt, and be willing to embrace change.
Below are examples of those who chose to make themselves a priority:
Þ Career Change: Sarah had been working in a high-paying corporate job and felt unfulfilled and stressed. Despite societal and family pressure she challenged her fears, quit her job to complete her degree and internship, and is now living her dream as a full-time licensed clinical psychologist.
Þ Toxic Relationship: Emily was in an emotionally abusive relationship that was taking a toll on her mental and emotional health. She left the relationship allowing her to begin the journey of healing and self-discovery.
Þ Caregiver: Julia’s mother was aging and needed personal care. Julia chose to stay in her executive role and become her primary caregiver. This decision meant making sacrifices both professionally and personally, but it was from a place of love for herself and mom. She found fulfillment and balance in her job, providing the best care for her mother during her time of need, and learned to be intentional with her own self-care. This enabled her to be a better caregiver and executive.
Making yourself the priority is a journey that allows you to navigate the complexities of selflessness, overcome guilt and stigma, and set healthy boundaries. Choosing yourself should not be a revolutionary act. It is a reminder that to be a beacon of light for others, you must first light your own path.
“You owe yourself the love that you so freely give to other people.”