How to make yourself a priority & live the life you want.
It's Bloody Hard!
Let’s face it, for many of us women making ourselves a priority is not easy, it’s bloody hard!
The fact that we often have so many roles to play coupled with our desire to fulfil those roles to the best of our ability, can lead to a natural tendency to put the needs of others before our own.
Whilst it’s amazing to want to be there for other people, failing to be there for ourselves is resulting in terrible consequences for many women.
In this blog post, I’m going to share some of the things I’ve learnt through a combination of my journey, years of research into personal development and working with many women through 1:1 coaching and group workshops.
Keep reading for all things making yourself a priority related including.
· Insight into why it’s so difficult to do
· The importance of making it happen
· How to know when to re-prioritise
· Some strategies to support you to make the changes you need.
Where are you?
Let’s start with you, I invite you to reflect on how much of a priority you are in your life right now, perhaps giving yourself a score between 0-5.
0 - You never consider yourself or your needs and your world revolves around making everyone else happy.
5 - You consistently ensure you remain a priority and your needs are met.
Whatever your score, please know that there is no judgement here. If you’re currently scoring low, don’t worry, rewind 5 years ago and that was me too (more about my story here if you’re interested Leanne's Story | You First Coaching ). If change is possible for me and the many women, I’ve supported- then it’s possible for you too.
Why do we struggle to make ourselves a priority?
In short - lots of reasons. I would encourage you to get clear on the specific reason(s) why you find it hard as a first step because without understanding the root cause of a problem, you can’t resolve it. Here are a few of the common reasons I see with the women that I work with
For many of us the focus from our parents and caregivers growing up was on being a nice person, doing things for others, being kind, sharing etc. Of course, this is all important, but there was little or no focus on making sure that we met our own needs or on kindness, and compassion to ourselves. This shapes how we operate as adults.
There is a lot of peer pressure to succeed in life and messages such as ‘sleep when you’re dead and ‘rest is lazy’ are so prevalent. Many of us building our careers find that workplace culture is focused on starting early, working late, taking on more and more responsibilities outside of the remit of our roles and generally feeling that need to push, push, push -or risk being left behind. I know that this is something I can relate to during my corporate career, are you the same?
This comes up such a lot, particularly ‘mum guilt’ and I hear so often how women feel bad about doing something for themselves instead of spending time with their kids.
Whether it’s fear of judgement from others if we choose to spend our money on us instead of our family, fear of rejection from our loved ones if we put our needs first or fear of missing out if we choose to say no to something. Fear of choosing ourselves is so common.
Not living intentionally
Due to the fast-paced lives so many of us lead, we often don’t find even a moment in our day to pause and check in on how we feel and/or what need. This results in us not even realising were not getting what we need until we suffer the consequences of not meeting those needs.
How many times have you set the intention to do something for yourself such as go for a walk on your lunch break then someone asks for help and their needs take priority? This gets in the way of making ourselves a priority such a lot.
I wonder if any of the above reasons resonate or whether it’s something else entirely that makes it hard for you to choose you.
Why does being a priority matter? Isn't it selfish?
I could make this a very long blog by listing all the many reasons why these matters, but as you already struggle to make time for yourself, I will keep it brief and just share my top 5
1. Your Happiness - You deserve to be happy so if what you’re doing every day doesn’t make you happy, what you’re doing needs to change.
2. Your wellbeing - This matters and not taking care of it will have a detrimental impact sooner or later.
3. Your Relationships - They will all improve if you are happier and more present as opposed to unhappy and absent.
4. Your children - They will grow up believing that their needs matter if you role-model self-compassion to them.
5. Your results - You will be more productive across all areas of your life if you rest when you need to.
What else can you think of, I challenge you to think of at least 3 more reasons and then write these down and keep them somewhere you can refer to when needed.
When should you act?
Aside from the more obvious signs that you need to make your needs more of a priority such as persistent tiredness, low mood, overwhelm and burnout, it’s important to be aware of other less obvious signs too, including (but not limited to):
1. Not being able to remember the last time you felt excited about something.
2. No longer having an opinion and just going with what others want.
3. Withdrawing socially as seeing friends feels like another thing on your ‘to-do’ list.
4. Being in a blur of busyness but none of the things are for you.
5. Forgetting who you are and what you love.
6. Not getting the results you want as you’re not investing the time or energy needed.
What will happen if you don’t act?
One thing is for sure, living a life where you are not enough of a priority will cost you.
It will cost you your health, and your happiness, and it will cost you the chance to live your life in the way that you want to live it.
This could look like…
Your opportunity will be given to someone else.
Your amazing business idea will be started by another entrepreneur.
Your promotion will be given to your colleague
Your moment will be lost.
If you don’t make time for yourself and the thing’s that matter to you, you will lose out.
I invite you to pause for a minute and think about what you could be/do/have if you DID make yourself a priority.
If you stopped just pouring into everyone else’s cup and started pouring into your own, what then?
The possibilities are ENDLESS.
How to take action and become a priority
There’s no magic wand for this I’m afraid, it takes time, and it can be really hard- but it is so worth it.
Here are some powerful strategies that you can implement to make yourself a priority TODAY.
1. Take responsibility
This will feel like a hard message for some, please understand that I say this with nothing but love.
Unless you take 100% responsibility for your life you will not live it in a way that makes you happy.
I know this first hand. For a long time, I worked in a job that I didn't enjoy. I felt extremely unhappy and unfulfilled. Instead of taking responsibility to change the situation and looking forward to things that I could do to positively effect change, I blamed. I blamed my boss, the company I worked for, my colleagues, the systems, and the processes… why? Because this was much easier than accepting the fact that I was in a job I was unhappy with because I had chosen to stay in that job as opposed to getting a different one. Only when I took responsibility and said I'm unhappy at work did I have the power, to be honest about why that is and do something about it did my life change. I admitted to myself that the root cause of staying stuck was fear of failure and I worked on overcoming that fear and building up the courage to overcome it. Thank goodness I did. You can read more about the power of taking responsibility in The Success Principles by Jack Canfield, it’s the very first principle he shares The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be: Amazon.co.uk: Canfield, Jack, Switzer, Janet: 9780062364289: Books
2 Challenge your thinking
Just because you tell yourself that meeting your needs is selfish- doesn’t mean it’s true.
Just because you tell yourself that you’re a bad mum if you have a break from the kids- doesn’t mean it’s true.
I invite you to be open to the possibility that there is a flaw in your thinking and to gently move towards more you-based thinking.
Here are 3 questions you can ask yourself next time you’re decision-making that can help you do that.
Would my decision be any different if somebody else wasn't involved and if so, how? (This is a good indicator as to whether you’re people-pleasing)
What's the actual realistic risk to others if I don’t do the thing/say no etc? (Our feelings of guilt can blow things out of proportion so stick with the facts. For example, if you don’t go on a night out drinking because you want to stay in and rest, nothing bad will happen to anyone).
What is it I am really worried about? (Maybe it’s a fear of letting others down, guilt or something else. It’s important to understand what’s making it hard to make this decision based on your needs)
3. Start small
Let’s be real here, if you are someone who rarely makes any time for herself, you are going to need to start small and build.
Here are some ideas of ways you can do that:
Change your focus - let go of what you wish it could be and focus on what it can be. Changing your focus to what you CAN do is a game-changer. Quite often I have clients come to me and when I ask them what they can do for themselves this week, they reply by telling me how they can’t go to the gym class they want because they’re working late, or can’t go on a night out with their friends because they have got the kids…When I make them aware of this and they change their focus to what they can do, they then come up with a list of positive ways forward. Be mindful of this and catch yourself the next time you find yourself going down this thought path.
Be open to change - whilst rules are important, sometimes what you need in the here and now could require you to bend them slightly. Let’s be honest, if your child watching an extra 15 minutes of Peppa Pig means you get to have 15 minutes to gather yourself and call a friend because you’re struggling and you feel better as a result of that chat and more able to face the bedtime routine calmly, is it worth it in the long run?
Make the most of micro-moments - Have a bath, not a shower, sit and drink your coffee whilst it's hot instead of multitasking, take the scenic route to school pick-up, find 5 mins to read in the park on the way to the shop, let someone else research restaurants and book the table, don’t volunteer as the designated driver… afford yourself micro-moments where you can.
Put something down- Be empowered enough to choose to put something down instead of juggling all of the balls, inevitably dropping one and then beating yourself up about it. For example, I stopped ironing, and nobody died.
Have a preference- Make a point of making a choice. Swap ‘I don’t mind’ for ‘actually I prefer Chinese food over Indian’, Swap ‘It’s up to you to ‘I prefer if you drive.
So, there we have it, so many ideas for you to move forwards and start making yourself a priority today!
If you would welcome some further support to make these changes, here's some more information about how I can help you Personal Coaching Packages (youfirstcoach.co.uk)
If you want to ask any questions you can contact me here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or you can book a complimentary chat with me here: https://calendly.cm/youfirstcoaching/complimentary-call?month=2022-08
Take care of yourself,