Monday, January 25, 2021

Making “You” A Priority Doesn’t Make You Selfish

November 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Wellness

It’s not easy being a woman.

For as amazing as we are at multi-tasking, all too often, we leave ourselves — and our needs — behind.

We  feel pulled in so many different directions — juggling family, kids, work, activities — that sometimes we feel completely overwhelmed and end up putting ourselves dead last on the to-do list — that is, if we even make it on the list, at all.

As a result, more and more women today are feeling over-worked, exhausted and, oftentimes, resentful of their spouses/significant others who seem to have it easier.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Sure, there are going to be innumerable times when children and husbands or wives and aging parents absolutely must come first … that’s a given.

But even during times where it feels like our lives are perpetually thrown off-balance, neglecting our own well-being  often compounds an already challenging situation.

Because ultimately, if feeling happier, healthier, and less stressed makes you a better mom, wife,  daughter, employee, leader … isn’t that something we can all strive for?

I know what you’re thinking, and I don’t blame you; “Yea, yea, that sounds nice and all on the screen.”

You’re thinking, real life is messy, fraught with challenges and hurdles — presentations and business travel; PTA meetings and karate lessons; custody battles and bills. And you’re right; it is.

You also might be thinking, OK, but not everyone has a babysitter or spouse or family member who can help give you “me” time at the gym or even a therapeutic lunch date with girlfriends so you can focus on your physical and/or mental well-being.

That’s true, too. For many busy women today, a spare hour in their day to exercise or see friends is a pipe dream.

So knowing this, how can we  make ourselves — and our health, our wellness (mental and physical) — a priority, without being viewed as “selfish?” Because isn’t it selfless to take good care of ourselves so we can, in fact, take  good care of those we love and care about?

Isn’t it like that whole airplane crash scenario where we’re told to put a mask on ourselves, and then on our under-age seat-mate?

Of course I don’t mean to imply we should put ourselves and our own needs above  all else; that would, indeed, be selfish. But all too often, women forget that we should have a place on our own priority lists; we should be “a” priority, at the very least … not an after-thought when the rest of the day’s tasks are done.

So here are some things to ponder; some ways we can make ourselves — and our health — a priority, without spending any money or taking any time away from those we love who depend on us.

When you wake up, do you hit the alarm for 20 minutes, or do you jump out of bed and squeeze a workout in before your husband and/or kids wake up? Starting the day off with exercise — even if it’s just a 15-minute home DVD or a walk with the dog — sets the tone for the day and gets your morning off to a great start. And since no one else is awake at that time, you won’t feel guilty for taking time for yourself.

Do you plan out your meals, or do you grab whatever you can between meetings? Even taking weight concerns out of the equation, planning out meals is economical. It can also lift the burden of indecision when dining out (you’ll have decided previously what works into your wallet budget and food budget) and it can control impulse buys.

Do you smile at strangers, or glance down when you see someone approaching? It might seem miniscule, but a random act of kindness — however small– can make us happier in the long run. A smile is contagious; give a grin, and it goes a long way. Maybe the person you smile at will hold the door open for someone else, who will pick up someone else’s newspaper for them and give it to someone else who will walk dogs at a local animal shelter …

It’s not always easy to make ourselves a priority, and it might even feel selfish at first … but hopefully, in time, what you will discover is that making yourself a priority will pay dividends in the long run, leading to stronger relationships, friendships, and even a better work ethic.

There’s no harm in trying, right? Give it a whirl; let’s talk on the flip-side. And if you have some tips to share, the comments are open.

How about you? How can you make yourself — and your health — a priority? What tips can you share for ditching the guilt associated with “me time”?



19 Responses to “Making “You” A Priority Doesn’t Make You Selfish”
  1. Stephanie vincent says:

    If u don’t take good care of u, u can’t take good care of others! I challange everyone that they DO have the time. When u shift ur thinking to self love, you’ll be amazed at how it all falls into place!!

  2. Cynthia says:

    Making yourself a priority is essential. It’s too easy to get lost in the busy-ness of life, but some of your suggestions just contribute to the perfectionism some women expect of themselves. Allowing yourself to hit that snooze button can be a way of taking care of yourself. Planning out every meal and snack can take away from time that can be spent on a creative endeavor that enriches the spirit and refuels the energy. I’m not advocating doing away with planning and maximizing the usage of one’s time and resouces. Every working wife and mother that I know has to spend a ton of time organizing and planning just to survive. I just know from experience that when I’ve been up til 1:00 am making sure my family had clean clothes to wear the next day, that snooze alarm giving me until 6:20 meant more than early morning Pilates. Allowing the occasional Happy Meal was a gift for myself. How about suggesting that putting off folding the laundry until the next day is a great way to squeeze in some yoga time? Every activity we do comes with an opportunity cost. Sacrificing some of the things that actually make life a little easier because they’re not deemed as virtuous is not a way to take care of yourself.

    • Cait says:

      Sacrificing some of the things that actually make life a little easier because they’re not deemed as virtuous is not a way to take care of yourself.


      Excellent point!

      (And I must admit that I felt the same way about the snooze button thing. I think I’ve spent most of my whole life in a state of sleep deprivation. if I can find an extra 20 minutes of snoozing, that is so much more important to my mental well-being than a workout would be!)

      Like your suggestions/examples as well… recognizing that something real and valuable (like laundry) has to give to make time for something that seems frivolous/self indulgent (like yoga) really nails home the idea that yes, it’s worth it even if it feels frivolous precisely because it’s self-caring… is a Very Strong example of the point that Lissa is trying to make. 🙂

  3. .C. says:

    I agree with Cynthia. This reads way too much like another list of what women should be doing. I am an actress, student, secretary of a theatre troupe, designing sets for four fringe shows, and leading my communal living center as logistics officer. I get to bed around 2 and get up at 7:30 very frequently. My life looks more like clips from Run Lola Run lately than anything else. I would way rather have the 20 minutes, and I am pretty sure I get more than that length of time in walking/running from place to place throughout the day. Also, it is definitely a triggering behavior to spend too much time thinking about/planning meals for many disordered eaters. The ability to make impulsive, good choices is essential, and demonizing “unhealthy” food is just playing into a system that wants to keep women and disordered eaters in general in their sets of rules. Personally, my room is a mess. I am taking 28 credit hours and have always been on the dean’s list though, I do not miss rehearsal and I get things done. I do what I have to do and when I have time for myself, I do not attempt to waste more of it by agonizing over lunch (I do that enough as it is, while trying not to) or telling myself I should be exercising more.


  4. lissa10279 says:

    Good points, ladies, and you are totally right–sometimes we *are* best served being less structured… Giving in to sleep or a craving (I did both a ton while sick).

    As a recovering disordered eater that wasn’t my intent at all to trigger anyone but I was guessing most people struggle with planning than struggle with issues like mine (overplanning/overthinking) but perhaps I judged too soon. I think there is merit to both sides…giving yourself whatever it is you need…not what you “should” do.

    • Cait says:

      I was guessing most people struggle with planning than struggle with issues like mine (overplanning/overthinking) but perhaps I judged too soon.

      Yeah. I would say you probably jumped the gun.

      I think we live in a overplanning/overthinking culture. One of the things that I’ve been noticing with Marsha’s posts/comments is her mentioning that a lot of people “give up before they start” because they’ve overplanned themselves to a point of hopelessness. That especially when it comes to “should do” thoughts/ideas… it’s not that people are bad and planning/failing to make a plan. It’s that they fail to make a plan that actually pleases them– instead filling it with obligations either to other people or, just as often, to this perfectionist ideal of what they “should” do.

      • lissa10279 says:

        Cait, as a recovering “perfect girl” as Steph at BackinSkinnyJeans calls it (Type A person) that makes complete sense to me … often I fall victim to what “should” be done vs what I need. Being so sick the past 10 days has really taught me the value of REST … of allowing my body (and mind) to just “be.”

        • Cait says:

          I think we live in a “Type A” style culture. Even people who aren’t naturally “Type A” are often goaded into thinking that they should be “more of a go getter”… and then they’re caught up in the same cycle as all the rest of us… pressuring themselves with “shoulds” that are personally unsatisfying and unfulfillable.

  5. Julie says:

    I have to say, I agree with all of you. There are times when giving into a craving or sleep is needed, but one of the things I am learning lately, is that the structure and adding just a few things extra gives me more energy, my moods are improved, and my overscheduling is smoothing out. I posted just today Exercising with Poise and Grace. The over-scheduling and over-thinking has always kept me rushing. Stepping way back and being easier and kinder to myself is helping me to take care of myself and fit it all in.

  6. cggirl says:

    Ah you know, I’m really glad that these topics are discussed these days. On blogs like this, or even talk shows and magazines- we are voicing the idea that taking care of yourself IS good for those who depend on you, which helps with the guilt thing. If/when I ever have kids, or am in other caretaking situations, I’m glad to already have the idea that I should remember myself too. Whether I will really so it remains to be seen.

    One thing I recommend is mindful meditation, even just a few minutes, he’ll even just when ur waiting to fall asleep – vipassana meditation is a great thing and really the opposite of overanalyzing, overplanning, etc.

    Also, a relative of mine who has two kids has mentioned the notion of giving yourself the permission not to have a perfectly clean house all the time. Just being okay with not doing those dishes today, because you don’t have time, or even – GASP – because you prefer to watch survivor now that the baby is finally asleep. And in fact, this is an example of what I think is a broader concept – allowing ourselves to lower our expectations of ourselves, our demands on ourself. I think many of us are perfectionists and always guilting ourselves about how
    much better we should be doing… It’s okay to just be.

    • lissa10279 says:

      Cggirl–I know, I don’t have kids yet and HOPE to remember my own advice. I juggle quite a bit now without them, and know it will only get more challenging with them!

      You’re right–it’s ok to just BE.

    • Cait says:

      I loved when I was meditating every day, for exactly this reason… I loved the indulgence of just spending time not doing anything.

      Of course, then I had company visit, and couldn’t justify “wasting” that fifteen minutes anymore, and have never gotten back to it.

  7. MizFit says:

    it is trite but so so true around here that IF MAMA AINT HAPPY AINT NOBODY HAPPY 🙂

    and before I was a mama I just substituted my name.
    Im merciless in the protection of my ME TIME (to my husbands chagrin some days. seriously.)

    Im willing to get up early to have it (Im up at 430 so i can work in the am and have MEMEMEME time before he leaves for the office) as thats what it requires right now BUT I have no feelings of guilt if I look my child in the eye during those hours and say THIS IS MY ME TIME. ASK YOUR DAD.

  8. This is a constant struggle I think for most every woman. I really believe it is in our genetic makeup to be the caretaker. We spend our lives taking care of others and making sure everything is taken care of.
    In all of it, we lose ourselves.
    I have noticed that when I lose focus and do not take the time I need, my family and friends suffer because of it. That defeats the whole purpose if you ask me.
    I try to make at least 1 day/evening a week that is my time to do what I want. Whether it be a girlie movie or a night out with my hubby. I choose what helps ME relax and stay on track.
    I don’t think there is a list of things that have to be followed for “me” time it all just comes down to what keeps us each centered in our own lives.
    Along the lines of meditation I like to spend a few extra minutes lying in bed in the morning and think about what makes me happy and what I am grateful for. It always puts me in a good place to start the day.
    You can never under estimate the power of a good warm bubble bath!

  9. lissa10279 says:

    Agreed, Shannon! Bubble baths rock!

  10. meerkat says:

    Hmm, that sounds like another checklist of duties to fulfill, which is kind of the last thing I need.


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