Do you back down from your boundaries and allow others to mistreat you? Do you ignore your needs so you can satisfy someone else’s needs? Do you ignore or minimize your feelings? Do you skip self-care because you’re busy taking care of everyone else and think you can do without? In other words, do you consistently prioritize other people’s wellbeing over your own?
Choosing to take care of others and make them happy sounds like a nice thing to do. But when you do it at your own expense, you’re not being kind to yourself.
Sometimes, you need to choose yourself. You need to take care of yourself and do what’s best for you.
Choosing yourself means:
- Asking for what you need.
- Standing up for yourself.
- Validating your feelings.
- Taking care of your body, mind, and spirit.
- Treating yourself like a good friend.
I imagine those things all sound good and important. So, why is it so hard to choose yourself?
Is choosing yourself selfish?
You might have trouble choosing yourself because it seems selfish or uncaring. However, you can put yourself first and consider other people’s needs as well. I’m not suggesting that you never think about or attend to other people’s needs. Adult relationships should have a give and take. Sometimes, we go without or postpone our needs while we take care of someone else – and that’s appropriate. But if we do too much of this, we compromise our physical and emotional health – we end up exhausted, sick, resentful, and unfulfilled. Sometimes, our needs have to come first – because our needs matter as much as everyone else’s.
You also might have trouble choosing yourself because you think you don’t matter. You might believe that a person’s worth has to be earned and only certain people are worthy of love, happiness, security, and so forth. Or you might compare yourself to others and think you don’t measure up. You think you’re not as good (smart, attractive, funny, rich, etc.) as other people, so your opinions, needs, feelings, and boundaries don’t count. Unfortunately, you may have been treated like you don’t matter or told that you don’t matter. These are all difficult beliefs and experiences to correct, but it is possible to re-evaluate and recognize your inherent self-worth. You can do this by changing your thoughts and your behaviors.
To change your thoughts, try to be more aware of what you’re thinking. Instead of just accepting your thoughts as facts, be curious about them, question where they came from and how you know if they’re true. Even if it’s something you’ve believed about yourself for a long time, consider that it may be based on someone else’s opinion. Ultimately, you get to choose what you think, and you can choose to think more highly of yourself.
You can also build self-worth by treating yourself like a beloved friend. When you treat yourself well, your actions are saying, “I matter. I’m worth it.” These behaviors can include eating when you’re hungry, resting when you’re tired, exercising, validating your feelings, enjoying simple pleasures, spending time in nature, spending time on hobbies and with supportive people, voicing your opinions, setting boundaries, comforting yourself when you’re having a hard time, writing in a journal, and so forth. I recommend identifying 2-3 caring actions to do for yourself every day. Write them down and be sure you follow through.
Are you ready to choose yourself?
Understandably, many people are afraid that if they stand up for themselves, their relationships will suffer. And this may be true to some extent but remember that standing up for yourself isn’t selfish and doesn’t mean you don’t care about other people’s needs or wants. Well-functioning relationships are built on respect and mutual support. And people who genuinely care about you want you to stand up for yourself, get what you need, and be a happy, independent, and confident person. They are willing to make compromises and do things that are important to you.
Conversely, do you know some people who prefer that you act like a doormat or don’t seem to care if you’re unfulfilled, unhappy, and filled with self-doubt? And more importantly, why would you want to have a close relationship with someone who wants so little for you? You may have some relationships like this even though they aren’t the kind of relationships you really want. It’s hard to let go of people we care about or are related to, even when the relationships aren’t good for us.
However, even if other people in your life don’t encourage you to choose yourself, you can still do it! You don’t have to wait for someone else to give you permission (because chances are, you’ll never get it). You can start choosing yourself by doing some of the things I’ve mentioned previously (setting boundaries, asking for what you need, sharing your feelings and opinions, prioritizing self-care). Yes, other people in your life may not like the changes you’re making and push back. With time, some people in your life will adjust and may even like the new more assertive, confident, fulfilled you. And others may not and then you’ll need to decide how or if you can’t continue to be a part of their lives.
You are the only one who can decide if it’s time to start choosing yourself; if you’ll be healthier and happier when you accept that your needs and feelings are valid and prioritize them. If you’re ready, take a step today. And if you’re not ready, know that you can start choosing yourself at any time.
©2020 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved.
Photos courtesy of Canva.com
Free yourself from codependent patterns
Navigating the Codependency Maze provides concrete exercises to help you manage anxiety, detach with love, break through denial, practice healthy communication, and end codependent thinking. It was written by Sharon Martin, a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience helping people overcome codependency, people-pleasing and perfectionism and find their way back to themselves. For more info and to view sample pages, click HERE.