For years, I was your classic people pleaser, always desperately trying to make everyone around me happy. I always thought that it was a good thing to put other people first, but I eventually realized that I mattered too and that realization changed my life.
I used to always put other people first and it made me miserable.
I was so careful about not being selfish or self-centered, even if it meant doing something I didn’t enjoy. I thought that making other people happy would make me happy but it just left me tired, stressed out, and feeling like spending time with anyone was a chore.
Even though I was miserable, I always felt guilty if I got my way.
I was convinced that it was better if everyone else was happy even if I wasn’t. If I ever thought that one of my friends wasn’t happy with a choice that I made, I’d beat myself up for being selfish, even if it was something tiny like what music to play.
I was convinced that other people were more important than me.
Although it started off with little things like where to eat, I ended up making really unhealthy decisions just to keep other people happy. I literally made myself ill by constantly trying to take care of other people and ignoring how burned out I was getting.
I’d heard about self-care, but I thought it meant bubble baths.
My Instagram was full of people posting about scented candles and bath bombs and I just didn’t get the point. Why would you have a bath when you could take a shower and get on with things? It was only when I realized that self-care meant taking care of yourself and keeping healthy by putting yourself first that I saw how badly I was doing.
I spend my entire working life putting other people first.
When I realized that self-care could make a difference in my life, I started to see just how hard it was to focus on me. It doesn’t matter if they’re called customers or clients, almost every job forces you to make other people happy before you get a say, and it was hard to separate my real life from my working life.
I need to put myself first now to make my future better.
It took me way too long, but I finally realized that the only way to be happy in life is to make decisions that put me and my priorities first. It doesn’t matter what my grandparents or even my parents think – the choices I make now will set me up for the future and they need to be positive. Obviously, they need to be sensible too, although being paid to nap and watch TV would make me happiest. But when an opportunity comes up in another city or another country, I’m not going to let what other people want dictate my life choices.
Now if I want to stay in on Friday night, I will.
It might seem like a small thing, but saying no to going out has changed my life. It doesn’t matter how many people tell me how good this bar or that club is, I’ll only go out when I actually want to. You know what? I enjoy those nights out so much more than I used to, and my bank account does too.
FOMO is a thing of the past.
When I started saying no to things and spending more time on myself, I thought I’d constantly be second-guessing my choice and desperately messaging everyone to make sure I didn’t miss out on the gossip. I was right, but now the difference is I don’t care. I still love figuring out what happened last night from the random pictures and messages sent at 2 a.m., but I can do that with no hangover and no regrets and it’s so much better.
Putting myself first has shown who my real friends are.
Turns out that some people who I counted as friends were only my friends because they liked getting their own way. When I stopped making them my priority and focused on myself, we started to drift apart. At first, I was sad, but then I realized that the people who stayed were the ones who cared about me, and that matters way more than having ten different group chats planning nights out.
I’m not a therapist.
I’ll always be there to support my friends if they’re going through a hard time but sometimes it doesn’t matter how much I want to help, I’m just not the right person to help them. There’s no point in making myself stressed and miserable when it’s not going to make either of us feel better. If my friends need more help than I can give them, the best thing I can do is back off give them space to find the right support that they need.
Putting myself first doesn’t mean I don’t care about other people.
In fact, now I’m not constantly feeling burned out and exhausted by making people happy, I have more energy to care about people. That might sound harsh, but it’s true. Giving myself more space and deliberately making healthy decisions for my body and mind has changed my life and made me a much better friend too.
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