Sunday, March 31, 2024

I Am My New Priority

 It has taken me over 60 years, but I have finally come to understand that you truly cannot take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself.
Just like the safety instructions on an airplane – Put Your Oxygen Mask on First!
My history is the same as for most women my age, I was the one who looked after, supported, loved, nurtured, and sacrificed for everyone in my life.  Family, friends, husband, children, neighbors, people at work, you name it.  Often to my own detriment. 
For many years, I felt like I was the only one who could or would do it. 
From the bottom of my heart, it made me happy to give everything I had to those that I loved.  They didn’t even need to ask.  If I saw what seemed to be a need, I did whatever I could to help.
It made me feel valuable as a human being to be of service to others.
What I didn’t realize was that I was not saving some of that compassion for myself.  Anything I did that was just for me felt selfish and many of those I had helped were very quick to criticize me for it.
Now, looking back I wonder if the real issue was what I was taking away from them by having something for myself.  Those of course are the same people who somehow were not available when I needed something.
Slowly but surely, I have pulled away from those people and situations.  Creating some distance has helped me to see what I really needed and that was to take care of myself first and then share what I could with others.
Remembering what brings me joy and giving myself permission to have it has been wonderful.  I relish those beautiful moments when something new shows up and I know I am free to explore it.
There are so many things that I love and now I am taking the time to enjoy them.  Something as simple as shutting off my phone while I take a nap, read a book, or write an article feels like a total indulgence.  I am no longer available to everyone 24 hours a day.  Do Not Disturb has become one of my favorite settings!
I am also learning how to say no. Without explanation or apology, just no.  I want to say it kindly but with conviction so I’m practicing different ways to politely decline.  It is a work in progress after a lifetime of always saying yes.  It helps if I just pause before giving an answer to a request.  I try to remember that sometimes I need to say no to them to say yes to me.
Another change I am making is how I give.  I love to walk into a grocery store and pay for someone’s food or donate to a worthy cause as a gift to my grandchildren.  There are so many people in need in so many ways that any kindness I can show fills my heart with joy and appreciation.
The real beauty of making myself a priority is that I have so much more to give.  I feel nourished and abundant in ways that I never imagined. 
My sense of self-worth is no longer tied to what others need from me, it is simply what I deserve for myself.
Have you been the person everyone turns to for help?  Are you able to say no to requests or do you say yes even when it depletes you?  How do you take care of yourself?  Share your stories and join the conversation!

Published on Sixty and Me

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