One of our greater faults as women is that we often struggle to put ourselves first. It’s such a common occurrence that it begs the question, why is it so hard for women to prioritize themselves? Why are we unable to find time for ourselves the way we deserve?
It’s true that we all have some combination of things in our lives that take our attention away from ourselves – whether it’s our children, family, friends, work, passion projects, or service projects. We try to juggle so many things that we end up constantly pushing ourselves farther and farther down our priority list, because each time we say yes to someone or something else, we’re simultaneously saying no to ourselves.
This is viable for a short while, but it becomes a problem when it’s happening at the expense of our own self-care, our wellbeing, and our vitality.
Women are conditioned to take care of others first
A part of this difficulty putting ourselves first comes from our desire to please others, and to not feel selfish. It can be really hard to say no to others; in fact, it’s a strategy put forth by our Survivor Self to stop us from feeling like we are bad people, or like we don’t care about others.
At COR we talk about our three Selves – our Healthy Self, our Wounded Self, and our Survivor Self. It’s the Survivor Self that comes up with these strategies to help us not feel hurt again.
By engaging in these strategies, we don’t have to look at ourselves or tend to the part of ourselves that hurts. In the case of prioritizing ourselves, it’s much easier to pay attention to other things than ourselves, and it feels good to help others, so we tend to do that instead.
Not prioritizing ourselves hurts us in the long run
What we don’t realize is the effect this consistent lack of prioritization can have on us. Trying to please everyone all the time comes at a cost. We end up exhausted, there’s no downtime, and because we’re constantly taking care of other people, we start passing on things we actually want to do and that would be good for us because we simply don’t have the energy and we view them as unimportant compared to everything else we’re doing.
As a result, we start to feel resentment building, and there eventually comes a time when someone asks us for something and we are instantly annoyed that they even asked. We don’t want to be asked for anything anymore, because we’ve overextended ourselves and we feel taken advantage of. This resentment comes alongside a great feeling of overwhelm, where we feel like there’s no way we could possibly get to everything we have to do, and we become afraid of ultimately reaching a breaking point.
At this point, we aren’t just physically tired, but we’re emotionally exhausted too. We begin losing passion for our lives, and feel like we’re just dragging along each day. We’re no longer doing any of the things that turn us on and fill us up.
Shifting towards self-prioritization
Thankfully, there are things we can do to shift our trajectory and get out of this rut. The first step seems straightforward, but it’s not easy to do: carve out the time. Even if it’s just for thirty minutes a day, we all need time where we can say yes to ourselves. However, what makes this hard is that in order to find this time, you might have to say no to something or someone else. And that makes us feel guilty.
Here’s where the second step comes in: we have to try not to get hooked by guilt. It is inevitable that we will feel this way; women are conditioned to give, to be the emotional support for their families and communities. That’s a beautiful aspect of our lives in so many ways, but it also creates a sense of burden and responsibility.
It’s important to recognize that this “responsibility” is not actually ours. It’s inevitable to feel that guilt at having to say no to something, but we need to acknowledge the reality that it’s healthy to carve out time for yourself. You need to find things to fill you up. So when you can filter out the guilt, you can be with what’s actually true for yourself, and tune into what you actually feel, rather than succumbing to the strategies of the Survivor Self.
Plus, the more you give to yourself and feel filled up, your community will learn to see this as a key component to your health and well-being. You can then give from a place of overflow, which people can feel and will ultimately appreciate.
You’re not alone
We often think we’re the only ones feeling this way, but it’s important to remind yourself that the love and attention and care you always give to others should be given to yourself, too.
It can be hard to remember this, so one way to help keep this in mind is to surround yourself with other women who also understand that prioritizing yourself is important. Having people in your community who feel the same as you and are working on the same things as you will help remind you to be accountable to yourself in that way.
One way to find this community is to join a group of women who are already doing that work together. At COR we have a two-day immersion weekend created just for this purpose. It’s a beautiful way to have a space to focus on yourself, to look at what’s working or not working, to shed some of the “shoulds” around your life, and to give yourself the space and permission to do something that’s just for you.
If you’re interested, you can find more information on our upcoming Women’s Immersion Weekend on our website: https://corexperience.com/womens-immersion-weekend/