Since we were kids, we were taught never to put ourselves first, because that was selfish, and being selfish was the worst thing in the world. We were supposed to be hardworking and kind and intelligent instead.
As adults, we know we’re supposed be diligent and successful, and that this requires constant and measurable sacrifice.
Each and every day, we feel obligated and expected to perform, and to keep performing. We try to keep everyone happy, try to keep up the juggling act that is our job, our family, our kids, our second job, our friends, our work that we weren’t supposed to take home on the weekend but did because there was no time to do it in the 60 hours that we were actually at work.
We do everything we can to keep everyone happy, and that’s a full time job in itself. Call it a third job.
And then it’s only when we break down or burn out, or maybe when we’re sitting at our best friend’s kitchen table at 2 am, our vision slightly blurred from that fourth-drink-too-many, that we come to the screamingly quiet and strangely anti-climactic epiphany that we ourselves are not happy.
And also that we are to blame.
We were so busy catering to the demands of everyone else in our lives that we overlooked the crucial importance of caring for the one person who needs us more than anything. Ourselves.
We didn’t give ourselves rest when we were tired – we just drank more coffee and squinted at the computer screen through bleary eyes.
We didn’t listen to what we wanted – we forced ourselves to go along with what everyone else wanted instead.
We didn’t encourage ourselves when we were struggling – we just came down on ourselves harder when we failed.
We didn’t keep ourselves together when we were unravelling like Weezer’s Sweater Song – we let ourselves go without a fight.
We didn’t fight for our dreams – we settled for what we were told we should do, and what was safe.
We didn’t feel happy deep in our hearts – but we were so busy making everyone else happy that we hadn’t noticed.
We hadn’t talked to our heart in a while. We hadn’t even recognized the sound of its voice.
Maybe it was the steady decline of energy and confidence or the downgrade in work efficiency, expressed through a succession of subconscious self-induced failures, for our heart to make enough noise that we would finally hear it and pay attention.
Maybe the alcohol had better communication skills than we did.
But now we’re finally listening.
Now we finally understand that this isn’t narcissistic self-centeredness. It’s self-love, and it’s 100% necessary to have in order for us to be able to love anyone else. It has to start with us.
Now we’re recognizing ourselves as a person, a person who needs our love and support. A person who needs to be put first. Before the kids. Before the bosses and the endless projects and assignments. Before the dirty dishes and the cat and the email inbox that keeps magically refilling every ten seconds.
Because before we make time for others, we need to make time for ourselves.
Before we spend 60 hours at work, make our meals from scratch, and still get up early enough to hit the gym, we need to ask ourselves what we want. What we need.
We need to have a constant communication – positive communication. Even when we feel like hating on ourselves and ranting about all the things we don’t like and all the things we should be doing better, we need to pat ourselves on the back for the things that we did do. For the things we keep doing, every day.
We need to cheer ourselves on, even when we don’t feel like a cheerleader. We need to let ourselves smile and laugh and get a little excited, because we’re doing something really great, and we’re on the right path, we just need to keep going and not give up.
We need to value our own opinion and do the things we know we need to do – for us. Because it isn’t anyone else’s business if it’s October with frost on the ground, and we’re still hitting the tennis courts because that tennis racket is more familiar to us than our left hand, or if we feel compelled to spend $175 on a miniature Tyrian Lannister figurine, because it’s Game of Thrones, and it’s not a doll (technically), or if sometimes we really just need to go to Starbucks and order that Iced Hazelnut Macchiato, even though there’s a home-grown, fair-trade, vegan cafe around the corner from our apartment that’s more community-supportive and environmentally friendly.
Sometimes we just need it.
We need to let ourselves be ourselves.
We need to let ourselves like ourselves.
We need to treat ourselves like the person we love more than anyone else in the world.
Because when we put ourselves first, that’s when we become the best version of ourselves.
That’s when we’re able to give ourselves to others. To be hardworking and kind and intelligent. To have the strength to make the sacrifices required to be diligent and successful.
That’s when we become unstoppable.
That’s when we become alive.
And that’s what this world needs. Not more busy, automated people. Not more tired, overworked robots with eyes as empty as their coffee cups. This world needs more people who are excited about life. More people who know what it means to relax. More people who smile for no reason. More people who have come alive.
Let’s be first in line.