The Dangers of Putting Yourself Last
I have a client that spent 35 years dedicated to helping her husband excel. She helped him organize his space, prioritize his health, and she kept him fed and the house cleaned so that he could concentrate on his career. She told herself that she was doing it because of her unselfish and undying love for him, even though he didn’t seem to appreciate her or her efforts. Meanwhile, he wasn’t affectionate with her, and was often distant and aloof. But as he distanced himself more, she would justify his actions to herself. She held on to hope that her marriage would turn around and that one day, he’d come home and tell her how much he loved her. Then he left her for a younger woman.
I had another client that regularly worked 60-70 hr weeks. She was a co-owner of the firm she worked with. While each person was responsible for a portion of handling the business, she frequently found herself taking responsibilities that her colleagues had neglected to fulfill. She was exhausted, and as she was getting older, she realized that she had been neglecting herself, and that it was time to prioritize herself!
Another client was completely overloaded with responsibilities. She was the CEO of her company, and often found herself having to work late into the night. Then she’d come home, and take care of her elderly parent. She also managed several properties, and an Air B&B. She was stressed out, sleep deprived and having a hard time keeping track of all her responsibilities.
All 3 of these clients dedicated their lives to others and left themselves last. How did that impact their lives?
They made tremendous sacrifices for their loved ones, and their jobs, but because they didn’t take care of their own needs, they were left feeling betrayed, stressed, and exhausted. My client who was married for 35 years was furious and distraught when her husband left her after all she had done! She couldn’t believe that she’d dedicated her entire adult life to someone who would treat her that way! My overworked clients felt depleted. While they were passionate about their work, they felt like they had missed out on enjoying their lives.
The consequences of such long-term stress were not only reeking havoc on their emotional health, but also on their immune systems, their susceptibility to pain and ability to recover from injury. Stress increased their risk for most chronic diseases, and mental illnesses, especially depression and anxiety. Stress could have been killing their brain cells, and one of my clients was regularly forgetting things and struggling with her memory.
It is usually women who get stuck in such patterns. Our nurturing hormone, oxytocin, helps us care for our loved ones, and helping others gives us meaning and purpose. As mothers, and women, we are expected to be caretakers. So what is wrong with helping and stepping in to take care of others?
Helping others itself isn’t a problem. It easily can become a problem however if we are helping others at the expense of our own needs. Being the helper in a relationship also reinforces a belief that we know better than the person that we are helping. While that belief is appropriate if you are a parent, it can damage a relationship between two adults, and prevent the other person from taking responsibility for their own issues.
Importantly, if you are always putting other’s needs before your own, you can easily get burned out, depleted, exhausted and feel betrayed.
So what are some questions you can ask yourself to determine if you are putting yourself last?
1.) Are my physical needs being met?
For example: Am I getting enough exercise and sleep? Do I make time to eat healthy meals?
2.) Are my emotional needs being met?
For example:Do I have a way of relieving emotional stress? Is there someone I can talk to when things get challenging?
3.) Does my life have a greater purpose, and am I pursuing my own personal dreams? Have I put too many of my dreams aside for work or a relationship?
4.) Am I taking time to renew, have fun and enjoy life?
If you take the time to meet your own needs before taking care of others, it will be easier to do it from a place of joy. You will be less likely to feel resentful, and because you are taking more time for yourself, you will have less time for others. Often times what happens is that the person you were helping or compensating for will have to take on more responsibility. While this might take some negotiating if the person feels entitled to being at the receiving end, once you are able to assert your own needs in a relationship or at work, you will have a healthier work/life balance and a more enjoyable life!
Do you find that you are always putting yourself last? Do you find it hard to prioritize yourself? Some of us don’t feel worthy of self care, others are addicted to serving others, sometimes we are stuck in a narrative that this other person can’t do it without us, or that we are the only one that can do the job. Sometimes we have trouble setting boundaries and saying “no”. If you are ready to end this cycle of self-abuse and to start valuing and start making yourself a priority, and you need some help getting there, consider releasing subconscious barriers to do so.
How? Listen to my interview: Releasing Subconscious Barriers: The Key to Health and Happiness and call me at 1855 ENERJOY to schedule a complimentary consultation.