Putting yourself last is a false economy

Do you find yourself coming last in your plans? I don’t mean when it comes to the chores list, but when it comes to downtime, holidays, and even gifts?

At this time of year, we might find that we push our wishes back even more. When asked what’s on your Christmas wish list, have you ever found yourself saying something like “oh, don’t worry about me, there’s nothing I need. Let’s focus on the kids/family/dogs/cats...”?

It’s fairly typical of us, due to the way we are raised, to feel guilt around voicing our desires. We are taught to put others first and in general, it’s not a bad quality to have!

But it can go a bit too far. So much so that we can end up really drifting into the land of neglecting ourselves. This isn’t great for our happiness or our sense of self. In the long run, this can have negative consequences for our loved ones too.

You have likely seen pretty quotes such as, “You can’t pour from an empty cup”, doing the rounds on social media. I do agree this quote makes sense at first glance.

But these quotes are a bit of a lucky dip really. Sometimes they really hit the spot, leaving you with a fresh perspective. Other times they sound a bit fluffy, like a ‘nice sentiment’ that would never really work out in the real world. 

While you might see the sense in a quote at first glance, you could soon disappear down the mental rabbit hole of picking the statement apart. Thinking about all the people you take care of before yourself, you might wonder if refilling your metaphorical cup is too much of a luxury for you.

For this reason, I would love to present you with the not-so-quotable but more common sense reasoning behind it. It’s harder to dismiss stone cold logic!

So here is the bottom line...

A neglected, unhappy person will ultimately bring others down with their low mood. They may even snap at those around them; secretly wishing their loved ones would do something nice for them once in a while, even though we have repeatedly told them not to.

Does that sound about right?

It’s a common trap to fall into. We have the best of intentions and believe that putting others before us will make them happy. But that’s only a short-term solution, and it never ends well in the long run.  Ultimately, living this way is a false economy.

So the answer then is just a little honesty to redress the balance – honesty with yourself about what you want and need, and with your loved ones about how they can help with that.

Let’s stop expecting people to read our minds and know when we need a break, are craving a treat, or simply want to be in charge of the remote control. And let’s also stop denying ourselves, or waiting for somebody else to give us permission to refill our metaphorical cups. 

As adults, we are each responsible for our well-being, and an essential part of that is looking after ourselves. Self-care isn’t all about spa days and other indulgences; it can simply be about making sure you are fed, watered, rested and happy.

How about instead of putting yourself last and others first, or any other way around, we started living on a level playing field? 

Compromise with your family so you all get what you need. Take turns on who holds the remote control. Ask for what you want for Christmas, your Birthday or for any other celebration, just as you ask others what they want. 

I know this kind of change can trigger discomfort in many people, perhaps more so in parents. But consider this…

In demonstrating compromise and turn taking you are teaching your kids an important life skill, setting them up for future happiness, and in general just setting a great example to others. 

Not forgetting that you will be making yourself happier too – because that really does matter!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, SE21
Written by Toni Horton, The Midlife No Crisis Coach
London, SE21

I'm Toni and I work with people in midlife supporting them to make decisions on how they want to live their life going forward. Midlife can be a time of big changes and I want to show that it can be a time of confidence, happiness and excitement, once you get clarity on what you really want. My curr...

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