“I’m only here to take care of number one.”
How do you feel when you read that sentence?
It’s the ultimate sign of selfishness, isn’t it? What kind of self-centered, narcissistic asshat would proudly say that he/she is only here on this earth to take care of “Number One,” or in other words, only him/herself?
Exactly. Only a self-centered, narcissistic asshat would say that.
Well, on second thought…maybe we’re missing the point.
Unfortunately, there are people who have taken this “looking out for number one” stuff a little too far, and they have completely messed it up for the rest of us. Because of that, many of us have created an idea in our minds that it’s much better to take care of others instead of ourselves.
I mean, let’s be real–no one wants to look like a selfish jerk, right?
It took me a while to realize this, but looking out for ourselves isn’t about “being selfish.”
In fact, looking out for ourselves (aka, Number One) is not only a good thing, it’s the only way to living a happy and healthy life.
Yes, it’s the only way.
If you haven’t started yet, it’s time for you to start looking out for Number One. More importantly, in a minute, I’m going to ask you to take it a huge step further than that.
Putting Yourself First
Okay, I’ll come clean. There was a word that I snuck into the first sentence of this post to try to throw you off-track.
The word: “Only.”
Anyone who believes that the only reason for being on this earth is to take care of him/herself and no one else, is most likely a jerk of the highest order.
Thankfully, I’m not talking about those clowns.
But what about the rest of us?
Do you feel guilty or selfish about doing things for yourself when you could be using your time to do things for other people instead (like your kids, your significant other, or for your job)?
If so, you’re not alone. However, for your long-term happiness and sanity’s sake, I sincerely want you to re-think this strategy.
That’s only part of it, though. Like I said earlier, I want to take this one big step further.
This blog post isn’t simply about “taking care of yourself.” That would be too easy and I’m going to assume that you’re already doing that (if not, stop reading this post and start now.)
I’m talking about making a concerted effort from this point forward to put yourself first.
You read that right. This isn’t about putting your kids first, or putting your significant other first, or putting your friends first, or putting your job first–I’m talking about putting YOU first.
This might sound harsh (actually, I hope that it does), but you will never be the best parent you can be to your kids, the best partner you can be to your significant other, the best friend you can be to your friends, or the best employee you can be to your company unless you learn how to put yourself first.
It doesn’t matter if it’s going to a yoga class, taking an afternoon nap, going out for drinks with your buddies, pursuing a hobby, curling up with a book, watching the big game, getting a massage, or simply being alone doing absolutely nothing. The point is that scheduling “Me time” into our lives to emotionally nourish ourselves is a critical habit to develop for our overall health and mental well-being.
But that’s not how most of us operate, is it?
Most of us look at “Me time” as a luxury, not a necessity. If we’re done taking care of everyone else, and there’s nothing else that needs to be done, then we’ll take a moment to give ourselves the love and attention that we deserve.
But honestly, does that make any sense?
If you kept making withdrawals from your checking account without ever making any deposits, do you know what would happen? You wouldn’t just be broke, you’d be overdrawn. The fees and penalties would keep piling up, and not only would you have nothing left to give anyone, your account will shut down until you took immediate action to fix it.
Not only is this a terrible financial strategy, it’s even worse as a life strategy.
Believe me, choosing to live your life in this way won’t get you a trophy or a reward for all of the sacrifices that you’re making.
If anything, your “reward” for consistently making withdrawals from your life without making any deposits is the sad reality of being overdrawn physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. In extreme situations, you’ll get hit with a fee known as a nervous breakdown that will “shut down your account” until you take immediate action to fix it.
Even worse, if we’re constantly leaving our emotional accounts overdrawn, we’ll always be giving less than our best to the people who we love the most. Sometimes, because we’re so on edge, so tired, and so resentful for not giving ourselves the love and attention we need, it’s likely that we’ll end up giving our loved ones the worst of us as a result.
Worst of all, failing to put yourself as a priority makes it easier to turn to vices such as comfort eating, smoking, mindlessly surfing the internet for hours on end, and falling into less-than-ideal relationships to temporarily fill in the emotional gaps instead of facing the real issue.
This insanity has to stop.
There is a huge cost in failing to put ourselves first. Failure to do this consistently means that we will inevitably end up being of little use to anyone (especially the people who we love the most) if we don’t start making some serious life-changes in a hurry.
In order to make those changes, it’s time to become intimately familiar with a two-letter word that you may not like, but you must learn to love.
The Power of Two Simple Letters
Yep, you guessed it. The simple two-letter word that I’m talking about is “No.”
Far too often, we don’t take time for ourselves because we’re too busy saying “yes” to things that we really don’t want to do.
In case you’re wondering, I’m not naive about this.
Obviously, there will be many times in our lives where we have to do stuff that we don’t want to do, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, there are also plenty of times where we reluctantly say “yes” when we just as easily could have said “no.”
Usually we say “yes” because we’re afraid of being rude. We say “yes” because we’re afraid of not looking like a “team player.” We say “yes” because we’re afraid of making the other person angry or upset with us.
But at what cost?
Believe me, all of those reluctant “yeses” comes with a very steep price. Consistently failing to set boundaries and honor your wishes will leave you stressed out, resentful, stretched too thin, and exhausted. None of which will lead you on the path to living your best life possible, that’s for sure.
As a lifelong people-pleaser myself, the most powerful lesson that I have learned in my life to date is learning the importance of saying “No.” It wasn’t easy at first, but doing so helped me to realize that it’s okay to look out for myself and put myself first for a change.
Yes, it’s okay to say “no” to a family gathering with the in-laws. It’s okay to say “no” to spending $1,000 on a bridesmaid dress for your friend’s wedding. It’s okay to say “no” to going out to that party if you really want to stay home this weekend and catch up on your sleep. It’s okay to say “no” to listening to your friend complain about his job and/or marriage for the 20th time this week if you’re not interested in getting caught up in the drama.
In case you’re wondering, this isn’t about saying “No” to everything, and it’s definitely not about saying “Yes” to everything either–it’s about finding balance.
And yes, that balance can be found without feeling guilty.
Yes, There’s Time For You
There may be some people reading this thinking, “Yeah, I don’t have time for all of this ‘Me’ stuff.”
Stop bullshitting yourself. Of course you have the time.
If your doctor said to you, “If you don’t find the time to slow down and stop burning the candle from both ends, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a heart attack and die within the next 6 months.”
Would you find the time then?
Of course you would. It’s not like the doctor magically gave you more hours in your day after she gave you that grim diagnosis–it’s just that you now made it a priority to find the time that you previously believed you didn’t have.
That’s why the problem is never about your time, the problem is about your priorities.
That’s also why I wrote this.
I know this message of the blog post isn’t going to be embraced by everyone, and I’m good with that. If you want to keep yourself at the middle or the bottom of your priority list, that’s always your choice. But for those of you who are feeling the need to make a different choice, I want you to deeply consider appointing a new Number One priority in your life:
The reality is if you truly want to give your loved ones the absolute best of you, and if you truly want to experience your best life possible at home and at work, then you must learn to love yourself enough to put yourself first.
Contrary to popular belief, your loved ones and/or your career won’t suffer, and this won’t make you a “self-centered, narcissistic asshat.” What it will do is keep you sane, happy, and energized to continue caring for the people and things you love the most in this world.
If nothing else, you can start by doing these two things today:
1) Schedule mandatory “Me time” everyday. Even if it’s only 10 minutes (and yes, you do have 10 minutes), at least start there. It’s better than nothing, believe me. Once you’re comfortable with this idea, ideally you can add more time. The key is making this “Me time” mandatory and not leaving it up to chance.
2) Put this “Me time” at the top of your To-Do List. The easiest way to avoid being overdrawn is to consistently place deposits into your account first.
The reward to doing this is a renewed you who will be more present, more patient, and more energized for your loved ones and for anything else that deserves your attention. Make no mistake about this: To fully love others means to put yourself first.
Make today the day when you stop overdrawing your account and start putting yourself in the Number One spot where you belong.
Are you feeling guilty about this? Don’t. Believe me, your Number One status is well deserved and well earned, my friend.
It’s time that you enjoy it.
Do you struggle with putting yourself first? Have you been led to believe that doing so is selfish? If so, jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!