You owe it to your family to make yourself #1 – is this selfish or selfless?
Which aptly brings me to the subject of this week’s blog, prompted by a post on our A Love to Last Facebook page:
“Putting anyone else before your spouse,
whether it be children, ex-spouses, in-laws,
or friends, sends the message that they are
and will always be – second.”
This is a quote from my soon-to-be-released book “Second Chance“, what seems to have sparked some interest. One of the responses was from someone I know of, but have never met. Bec disagrees with my quote and feels that children come first, husbands second and herself last.
I will write another blog post about where husbands should be in the line up but today I want to focus on where many women, like Bec, put themselves.
I happen to know that Bec is an amazing woman. She is kind, generous, friendly and an all-round wonderful person, as are many people like Bec. However to be all of those things doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice yourself to others, and in the long run you can serve the world better if you are healthy, vital and present. To do this, you need to care for yourself as #1.
This sounds a little contradictory to my quote above, I should have clarified that it means putting your partner as your number 1 priority, after yourself. It’s about being in the best shape so you can give the most magnificent you to the other people in your life.
Putting yourself first doesn’t mean that you become selfish or you neglect your family and responsibilities. I am not talking about spending money on the pokies (slot machines) instead of buying the children new shoes, or watching the soaps when the children need their dinner, or going out with your friends when your husband asks you to join him at a company function.
Putting yourself first means taking a few moments each day to remind yourself who you really are. It means not losing your identity – that is knowing what you want from your life and giving yourself permission to dream. It means taking a bit of time each day to look after yourself to protect your health, your inner soul and your outer appearance. It means being able to say ‘no’ when something doesn’t fit with your values, so you don’t live someone else’s. Remember, it’s also about quality, not quantity.
In fact, one perspective is that you are being ‘selfish’ if you don’t take the time to look after yourself. Let’s look at what could happen if you put yourself last:
- What happens when you are go, go, go without taking a break to relax and unwind. Loss of vitality, exhaustion and overwhelm leads to many more serious consequences e.g. chronic fatigue, strokes, heart issues, diabetes.
- Self-esteem issues can arise due to many factors such as loss of identity and direction, denying needs, and often impact on physical appearance. These create a downhill spiral leading to relationship issues, detachment from self and unfulfilment in the longer term.
- The very best way you can serve your children is to look after yourself. Mums have the biggest influence and example on their children during their formative years. If your children will see you putting yourself last then one of two things can happen at the subconscious level. Either a pattern is laid for when they become parents and they also do not look after themselves, or the children get the message that they are more important and will treat others (including their future spouse) the same way.
- You may miss out on a deeply fulfilling relationship with your partner as you have not communicated your own needs to them as you are too busy trying to serve theirs.
OK, so I can hear some outrage, or at least some eye glances to the sky “where do you think I’m going to find the time with my kids, job, chores (fill in the blanks) for some me time”. Well, time does comes into it but most of all it’s about mindset, habits and changing the subconscious. Here are my top 6 suggestions (couldn’t get it down to five) for you to try out:
Get a good quality night’s sleep – that means don’t push yourself, and treat sleep as a precious commodity not to be squandered or allow others to rob you of. Work with your partner to share the load with the kids, and break that habit of letting them sleep all night in your bed. There is now massive amounts of research that demonstrates how important a good night’s rest is for your health, stress levels, your energy levels and weight loss efforts.
Each morning and evening when you are brushing your teeth, hair etc. really look at yourself in the mirror. Look deep into your eyes and speak to the person looking back at you. Tell them you love them and you are looking out for them as they are important; praise them for something they did well and tell them unless they look after themselves they can’t look after the children, their partner, the job etc. Try this for 30 days and let me know what happens to you, it is quite astounding.
Once a week, do something for yourself even if it is only taking an aromatic bath with candles. Others might be – leave the children with hubby for a short while, grab a book, magazine, iPad and go and have a coffee with yourself (or a friend), do a home pamper, create a really small project e.g. edit the holiday snaps, attend a meditation class, or something that you specifically enjoy. Just make sure you plan it into your schedule.
Plan a ‘date night’ with your partner. This doesn’t even have to involve going out and spending money or getting babysitters in. A date night is when you get off the rat race treadmill and just focus on each other and enjoy each other’s company (and preferably really talk to each other). If you want some ideas, I gather ideas for Date Nights on my Pinterest boards.
Set yourself a goal for you, one that is achievable, not a big hairy audacious goal. Then chunk it down into seven steps. If each of those steps are still too big for the time you have available chunk each step down again into seven smaller steps. Each day, do one thing towards your goal and feel how fulfilling it is.
Listen to audiobooks that will help you to understand why it is selfless to look after #1. I play audiobooks on my IPad or from my iPod through speakers when I am cooking, cleaning, travelling etc. so I can multi-task. My favourites on this subject are Christiane Northrup, Judith Orloff, Caroline Myss and John Demartini.
Watch out for my Making Yourself #1 Checklist which will soon be available as a Free Download on the Love2Last website.
Putting yourself first is the absolute best thing you can do for your family; they will then get the best you can be, both physically and emotionally. So go on indulge a little bit, you’re really doing it for them!
So, why do I think it is selfless and important to look after yourself? Why do you think I have had to take a recent break from doing what I love? Why do you think I have adrenal exhaustion? Because I am now taking my own advice. This is written to Bec, with love.
Author and experienced relationship coach, Gillian Andale is the owner of Love2Last, a coaching and resource centre dedicated to couples who have found love again, want a new beginning and aim to strengthen and grow their relationship as well as need help in blended family situations. Visit www.love2last.co to browse and see the wealth of information available.