Can you put yourself first without feeling guilty?

I have been attempting to do this since late last year, it’s a challenge!

Human lives can exert huge amounts of pressure at times and occasionally it feels like too much, we get swamped. That’s what happened to me during early winter last year.  Several difficult events occurred in my life and in the life of those I love and I tipped into overwhelmed.

Reflecting back I can see that I was unaware of the cumulative effect of what was going on, that was, until I started crying and couldn’t stop. When I was no longer in control of myself and my feelings I knew I had to step away and take some time out for myself.

Not only were the current events challenging, I had also been triggered into my past stuff; times when inappropriate calls were made on me at too young an age and when certain traumatic events happened.

Under stress this can happen to any of us, it feels awful but actually it’s a good thing.

We are being directed to healing, not only to heal old unprocessed events, but to learn how to take better care of ourselves now, no matter what is going on.

But here comes crunch time, the actual doing of that.

Extreme self care may be easy for some but for me it is a struggle.  To consider my needs above those of others, no matter how difficult things may be for them, feels wrong. Although ME/CFS had taught me a lot about taking care of myself, it seems I had even more to learn.

Here are some of what life taught me this time. When we decide to put ourselves first:

  • Some people will take it very personally and then try to blame us for their own feelings. They are not able or willing to do their own inner work, to question why they are reacting the way they are to our decision.
  • People can get so wrapped up in their own stories and stuff that they are unable to extend any compassion or to try and understand another’s point of view.
  • When this happens it is very easy for us to do exactly the same, to take their behaviour personally, and so the vicious cycle of blame and counter blame begins.
  • In our society many of us spend a lot of time blaming others for how we feel. We say things like, “they made me feel……, I was alright until they……..They have ruined my day/my life etc.” We have not been taught to stop, take stock and wonder why we are reacting the way we are, to keep the focus on ourselves.
  • Sticking to our guns and looking after ourselves first, despite what others want or even need, is hard. Doing so is likely to trigger a lot of self-talk telling us we “should, must, have to”, we are brought face to face with some of our limiting beliefs that tell us the needs of others are more important than our own. 
  • These beliefs were formed somewhere in the past, they are signposts lighting the way to  situations where we made decisions about ourselves and about the world inorder to make sense of it.  They come from our past perceptions; the meaning we attached in order to feel safe and survive.

If we want to change, if we want our lives to change, if we want to feel better more of the time, and learn to handle some of the stressful events in life in a more helpful and healthy way, then we have to be courageous. Like any hero, setting out on what may feel like an impossible journey, we have to be prepared to face demons and monsters;  the reactions of others, and the painful truths about who we are and how we ended up where we are, feeling as we do.

Letting go of the reactions of others, releasing the need to prove them “wrong” and ourselves “right”, the need for their approval or affirmation, is tough. So too is taking a long hard look at what is being triggered in us, but therein lies freedom,  we can learn to move to a better place where:

  • We act out of choice not chore.
  • We come from love rather than obligation.
  • We follow compassion rather than guilt.
  • We understand our limits and operate within them.
  • And we serve the world from our surplus not our substance.

This is a process, especially if we are triggered into deep and painful issues as I have been. EFT and Matrix Reimprinting, working with a practitioner as well as on my own is helping me. Returning to or ramping up the self-care essentials is paramount. Focus on improving your sleep if it is knocked off, eat good healthy nutritious regular meals, rest, find some joy, talk to supportive people you can trust and above all else remember that change is often a bumpy ride for a bit, hang on, do your healing work and things will get better.

“Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.”
 Parker Palmer