So, when you go on an airplane and they're doing the whole safety instruction thing, they always tell you that in the event of an emergency, you should secure your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others.
You already know why they do this. Because if you don't put your own on first, then you won't be able to breathe and therefore you'll never be able to help anyone else because YOU WILL BE DEAD.
Yet in our everyday lives, so many of us are more than happy to put the happiness of others way in front of our own needs. We don't put ourselves first. Far from it.
We think it makes us good people. To put ourselves first would make us terribly selfish, after all, right? But really, by being so "nice" and selfless, we're actually doing ourselves some deep and lasting harm.
Take, for example, a person who is caring for a sick family member, attending to their every need to the point where they have sacrificed their own life. Here's what happens. The person in the caretaker position will eventually get burned out, and they won't be giving the sick person the best of themselves. Now, everybody loses. The sick relative isn't getting the best care. The caretaker has become physically and mentally burned out, and now feels emotionally sick.
No, I am not saying that if you have a sick relative that you should dismiss them. However, what I am saying is that being selfless can have diminishing returns. It's important to take care of yourself. So if you are in that "caretaker" role, be sure to tend to your own needs too, because they are equally important.
Me, I'm a people pleaser.
My "putting myself second" doesn't necessarily show up in a clear-cut, Mother Theresa, saintly self-sacrifice kind of way.
For me, I think it shows through with how I conduct myself with people and how I work. For instance, in my work, I am willing to go way above and beyond what is required, sacrificing my time, sleep, and efforts for results that will please others. I want gold stars all the time! The fact that something I've created will please others is a strong motivator for me, and I am willing to sacrifice myself for it.
Similarly, I am willing to do a lot to help others. I'll take the time to listen to their problems, to help them pursue projects, to give them advice, to drive them around so that they can run errands if their car is broken down. I don't ask things in return, because I don't want to be a bother, because I'm scared to, or because I don't think that my stuff matters or deserves as much attention. Their happiness is all I need, right?
In the past, this has very much been attached to disordered eating. I can draw direct lines to incidents where I have not pleased people and when I have had episodes of bingeing and purging, or times when I've gone into periods of active restriction.
People pleasing can be like a disease. But not an obvious disease, a sneaky disease, because you can trick yourself into believing you're being so selfless, so giving, so good.
Happily, there is a cure. Sadly, it's easier said than done. Ready to hear what it is?
Help. Yourself. First.
God, that sounds greedy, doesn't it? Attending to your own needs before those of others? What are you, some kind of asshole?
No. You're performing the emotional equivalent of putting on your own air mask first on the airplane. And you WILL benefit from it.
Everyone is different, but as I see it, here are some of the things you could potentially gain by putting yourself first:
1. You'll be happier.
When you tend to others first, on some level you don't feel cared for yourself. This can build into exhaustion at best, resentment at worst. When you feel that you've been attended to and your needs are being met, you'll be happier.
2. You'll spend less money.
When you are constantly giving to others, often you start to feel a hole inside of you. Often, people try to fill this void with stuff. I've noticed that people who give to others before themselves tend to splurge more, because on some level they are trying to make themselves feel loved.
3. You'll eat better.
Back to the hole inside of you discussed just above. If you're not filling it with stuff, chances are you're stuffing yourself with food in an effort to try to fill that void. Maybe you're trying to make yourself feel loved by eating chocolate cake or treating yourself to a second glass of wine. Let's get this straight: I don't think that treating yourself with emotionally pleasing foods is always a bad thing. However, being self aware of why you're doing it is important. If your needs are truly being met, you may find it is not necessary to use food to fill the void.
4. You will have more time.
Oh hi, if you're attending to your own needs, then you'll be getting your own shit done. This means that you won't be so busy attending to others or pleasing others that you don't have time to do anything for yourself. This means that your time will be more efficient because you'll feel like you're not constantly in a state of catching up.
5. You'll actually be able to help others.
OK, so you're spending less, you're happier, you're less exhausted, you're eating better. Overall, by helping yourself first, you are overall doing a lot better as a human being. Ultimately this means that when you do want to help others, you'll be better equipped to do so. Wait, what? By helping yourself first, you can actually better help others? Yup. That's the secret. Everyone wins this way.
Do you have trouble putting yourself first?