Surprisingly enough, putting yourself first can be a little confusing and stressful. The main reason for this is that , for many, the concept of putting yourself first seems to feel more and more foreign as you age into midlife.
What typically happens is that you work so hard in your 30s and 40s to get established in some combination of career, family and finances. It can be a chaotic time of life when you’re prioritizing these important areas of your life. Thinking about yourself can take a back seat even with noble, inclusive goals like these.
With a few grown-up decades under your belt (and maybe a roll or too), it can start to feel unfulfilling after awhile.
Your nest starts to empty.
Your job or career starts to feel boring.
Your milestone birthdays start to feel heavier with urgency.
You know there’s got to be more meaning out there for you somewhere.
So…you decide it’s time to put YOU on the agenda.
But then something weird happens.
Even this thought can feel unfamiliar and…wait for it…a little selfish.
You notice that it’s much easier to continue on with your people-pleasing ways and put other people’s needs first.
Are you familiar with the term “people pleaser?” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it means ” a person who has an emotional need to please others often at the expense of his or her own needs or desires.”
Does this sound like you?
If it does, you’re not alone. It’s super common with midlife women.
And now’s a great time to become aware of the impact of this tendency for you.
Here’s what people-pleasing might look like in your life:
- Yes, of course you have time to help your kids at the drop of a dime. Even if you had a massage appointment booked.
- Of course you can work overtime to handle that new deadline that your boss just told you about. Even if you had other plans.
- Or, of course you agree to do whatever it is your mother-in-law mentions to you because you want her approval, even though it’s inconvenient or your really just don’t want to.
Overall, you usually agree. You find it difficult to say “no,” so you don’t. You probably also apologize all the time and take the blame even when it’s not yours to take. You’re very focused on others’ approval of you.
What’s going on here?
You would think that when you’re OLDER AND WISER, this would be easier to be authentically you!
The reason it’s difficult to put yourself first isn’t because you’re not worth it or don’t have the skills.
A lot of it is simply that you’re out of practice doing a few important things related to putting yourself first.
- you’re not used to thinking about your needs
- you’re not used to thinking about your dreams
- you’re not used to thinking about how you can have more fun
- you’re not used to taking care of yourself at the highest level
- you’re not used to saying no to the people you love
- you’re not used to prioritizing yourself
- you’re not used to having your own back
- you’re not used to honoring your commitments to yourself
- you’re not used to noticing the urge to break the commitment to yourself
- you’re not used to being aware of your thinking on this topic
It’s as simple and as complicated as this.
Here’s what to do to get better at putting yourself first.
It’s your thoughts.
Your thinking isn’t helping you out here at all!
Once you improve your ability to NOTICE what you’re thinking, you will also improve your ability to put yourself first.
In each of the examples above, there’s a thought involved. Or a series of related thoughts that take you down the rabbit hole of NOT putting yourself first.
And you know what?
You’re more comfortable down there.
It’s your happy place.
You have the belief that you can make someone else happy by the way you behave.
I bet you might even feel a little stuck.
You basically go out of your way to make someone else happy…even when you’re tight on time or money. And you don’t do it just to be nice. It’s usually related to your own insecurities in some way.
The funny thing though, is that you might not be fully aware of this.
But again, when you get better and better and noticing your thoughts when you have the urge to do this, you’ll likely see a pattern.
How strong is your commitment to yourself?
Assessing your commitment to yourself is really the core of putting yourself first.
Think about it.
Commitment is a feeling.
Feelings are generated by the way you think.
So, what do you think about committing to your specific priorities?
This is how to move forward with finally putting yourself first. It’s how you get unstuck!
- Identify your priorities. Start with one.
- Ask yourself why it’s a priority.
- Plan in advance to support your priority.
- Anticipate obstacles (like requests from other people) and a strategy to deal with them as they come up.
- Notice your thoughts as you practice being more aware of what you want.
- Create a pause after you notice an urge not to stick to your plan.
- Allow your discomfort with sticking to the plan…but do it anyway.
It will take some time for sure, but these are the basic elements to learning how to have your own back and putting yourself first.
Of course there will be hiccups.
That’s why I created some help for you. You’re not alone, that’s for sure.
Here’s How to Finally Put Yourself First!
The Women in the Middle Academy is your home away from home when it comes to coaching, community and connection to other amazing midlife women working on the same thing…finally putting themselves first!
It’s my virtual, 6 month coaching program to help you move the dial forward on greater commitment to yourself when it comes to your priorities around self-care, being more intentional about your relationships and the way you make a formal professional contribution in the world. It’s time for you to get serious about being more fulfilled and happier! We’re waiting for you.
Apply here: www.womeninthemiddleacademy.com
Can’t wait to see you finally get unstuck, clear about what you actually want and excited to finally put yourself first!
Suzy Rosenstein, MA is a master certified life coach and host of the popular podcast for midlife women, Women in the Middle, with over 1 million downloads. Having wasted five years being stuck herself, she knows how frustrating and painful it can be. She uses her upbeat approach with the serious topic of aging to help you get clear about what you want, get unstuck and live your best life. Girlfriend, there’s more fun to be had! Start now with her free midlife video training about how to get unstuck: www.midlifevideo.com.
Updated: December 4, 2022