Do you always put you last?
Placing yourself at the top of your to- do list isn’t selfish, say psychologists—it’s the key to greater happiness, health and harmony!
You pride yourself on being the one everyone turns to for love, support and assistance, dropping everything to buoy, bolster and back people up. But the ugly side of being a hero—exhaustion, frustration, a chronic sense of failure—leaves little energy for taking care of you.
“You learn from culture that self-care is selfish and that caring for others is the highest ideal,” says psychotherapist Tracey Cleantis, author of An Invitation to Self-Care. “You learn that to be a great mother, daughter, sister, wife and friend is to be tired, worn-down, busy, breathless, sleepless and self-denying.” You feel the toll it’s taking, but there’s always a fire to put out or a crisis to see someone through. “We tend to say to ourselves: Once I achieve this, once I accomplish that, then I will take care of me,” observes Cleantis. “However, if you don’t start with self-care, you won’t have the fuel to reach the mountaintops that you are capable of reaching.”
The key to prioritizing your own needs alongside everyone else’s? Boundaries. “Boundaries are listening to your ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ and understanding what your limits are,” explains Cleantis. For example, you might cap the number of hours you invest in someone else’s problem or scale back commitments that sap your energy. “Setting boundaries is truly the greatest self-care you can ever do.”
To get started, identify the emotional red flag you notice most in your own life, then read on for expert advice on how to honor your needs while still being a resource for everyone you love.