Recently, I was coaching a client about her priorities. She said, “You know, priority didn’t have a plural form for many years. There really should only be one priority if we’re true to the original definition.” I didn’t know what to say at first. Here I am with a PhD in English, and I had never considered the irony of having more than one priority! Since then, the concept of only having one priority has been on my mind a lot. If we can only have one priority, then it seems to me, our one priority has to be ourselves. Stay with me! I know that may be controversial, especially if you were raised the way I was, but I think I can convince you.
When we make ourselves our priority, we aren’t being selfish; we are investing in our future and the future of our loved ones. When I focus on taking care of me, I exercise, cook healthy food for myself and my family, drink enough water, and get plenty of rest. I spend time alone journaling and meditating (not easy during a pandemic when my 6 yr old has access to me 24/7) so my mind will be clean and rested. When I focus on taking care of me, I am not saying no to my husband and children. Instead, I’m ready to give them the best version of me! I give them the rested, hydrated, thoughtful version of me rather than the tired, irritable version of me that runs through a drive-thru to feed us fast food for dinner because she didn’t plan healthy meals at the beginning of the week. When I am the priority, I am abundant with my time because I have planned my time and scheduled family time on the calendar.
I grew up in an environment where I was taught that women especially should put themselves last. I know older women who can’t tell you their favorite food or their favorite thing to do because they’ve never given themselves that much thought. They were taught to ignore desires and negative emotion in themselves and do things for everyone around them with a smile on their faces. They were taught to be small and not bring attention to themselves. For the record, I still get uncomfortable if I do something to bring a lot of attention to myself. Though I always pushed against some of these ideals, I also still struggle with them. However, I firmly believe that a person who takes care of her own needs first is much better prepared to take care of others. It’s a bit like putting the oxygen mask on yourself first before you put it on the person next to you on the airplane.
I have watched women in anguish with guilt and shame because they want to do something for themselves like taking an exercise class or going back to school, but they can’t get past the feeling they might not be able to do something for their children or spouse if they do this thing for themselves. [I have also watched other women shame the women who are brave enough to make themselves the priority, but that’s a topic for another post.] If my post makes sense to you or if you want to explore this concept, but you’re just not sure about making yourself a priority, set up a free session with me. Let’s talk about how putting yourself first can make for a happier marriage and family life! Until then, much love!