I Started Putting Myself First & A Lot Of People Couldn’t Handle It

After spending too long on everyone else’s drama, I decided to start putting myself first. I expected that the people in my life would support me in this but some of them really didn’t and it was a bit of a shock.

  1. I needed some time out. Have you ever felt really stressed and anxious to the point where you needed to put up a sign on your life that reads “out of my mind—be back in a while”? That’s what I was feeling. I’d been pushing myself too much and needed to focus on myself for a change. It made total sense to me, but it’s sad how so many people just didn’t understand it.
  2. I was attacked for prioritizing myself for once. I remember my friend wanted to see me and I just wasn’t in the right space to socialize. He didn’t take it well, and instead kept going on about how he needed me and I wasn’t there for him. Um, hello, I was the one who needed help here! I was going through a lot of stress, but he just didn’t seem to have any empathy.
  3. People bolted from my life at alarming speeds. There were other friends who disappeared the minute I wasn’t there. It showed me that I was always the one initiating contact and trying to keep them in my life all along. They didn’t seem to really want to make an effort. So upsetting.
  4. There was a lot of faux support. Don’t get me wrong—there were friends who really cared about me, but it was clear that a lot of others were just going through the motions and didn’t truly give a crap. They’d send me messages saying that they missed me or that they were always there for me, but when I took them up on it and asked for help, they were nowhere to be found. I called one of my closest friends up to talk and she was just never available. She kept sending me messages saying she hoped I was well and she was thinking about me, but she never actually wanted to know how I was doing. WTF?
  5. I needed to be my own best friend. I’ve always given so much to the people I care about. I’ve gone out of my way to help them as much as possible. I’ve listened to all their problems and gave them all the time in the world whenever they needed me. Funny how when the tables were turned, most of them couldn’t be bothered to step up to the plate and return the gesture. I had to have my own back.
  6. I taught others how to treat me. I realized that I’d been teaching my loved ones how to treat me. I never had many boundaries; whenever someone needed me, I was always there. When it came to dating, I invested whole-heartedly into my relationships but often got nothing in return. I think I taught people to treat me badly because I didn’t treat myself with respect and love.
  7. I was too independent for my own good. I always tried to look after myself. If I was going through drama, I didn’t want to burden anyone with it. This might sound like a good thing, but it was actually harmful to me. I ended up silently carrying all my problems, stresses, and fears all on my own. And for what? The whole point of having a support system is to depend on it! Now that I was trying to do that, people around me didn’t know how to deal because it was such a foreign thing for me to need them.
  8. I suddenly and clearly saw who deserved my time. It’s easy to think that people who are present for the good times will be there for the bad, but nothing could be further from the truth. The experience of taking time for myself showed me that anyone can laugh with me and party with me, but only a select few will actually be there when the party’s over.
  9. It messed with my trust. I thought I could trust the people who promised to always be there but I really couldn’t and that made me feel so alone. However, it was good to remember that I still had people who showed me that they really cared, and that’s what mattered. A few real friends were better than hundreds of fake ones.
  10. The change wasn’t temporary—I have to come first for good. When I appeared to go back to my normal self, my friends were in for another surprise: I was going to continue looking out for myself before I looked out for anyone else, and that wasn’t going to change. The good friends stuck around and applauded me for the change because they knew it benefited them—how could I be a good, loving friend if I neglected myself?
  11. I’ve lost people but gained a lot more. I’ve lost a few friends because of how I’ve started prioritizing myself but honestly, I don’t give a damn. I’ve gained so much more than I’ve lost. I’ve started caring for myself better, I’ve stopped giving too much of my energy and love to people who really don’t deserve it, and I’ve allowed my life to be filled with honest people. I’m winning.
  12. I’m not sorry. I’m not sorry for putting up walls to keep out toxic friends. Sure, I miss the people who’ve chosen to walk away, but that’s the thing: they’ve chosen to leave me, even if they see it differently. I refuse to let people who aren’t real float around in my life. I finally have too much self-love for that.
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.