We have a hard time putting ourselves first because people mistake self-care for selfishness.
Think about the last time you were supposed to hang out with your friends but were too tired, too anxious, too depressed to follow through on the promise. Did you tell them the real reason why you weren’t hanging out with them or did you make up a lie about having to work late that night or having to get up early the next morning?
You probably lied because it seemed easier. And, honestly, it usually is easier.
It’s not always that we’re afraid of admitting our vulnerability. What we’re really afraid of is the reaction to our vulnerability.
If we claim we’re busy working eight hours, most people will accept that we aren’t free to hang out and will leave us alone. But when we tell the truth and say we aren’t in the right mental state to hang out, most people will argue with us. They will pressure us. They will say, come on, it will be fun!
They might even get offended about us choosing to stay home and sleep instead of hang out with them. They might make our decision all about them and decide we must not like them very much if we aren’t agreeing to see them.
Everyone tells us to put ourselves first — until putting ourselves first gets in their way. Until it makes life more difficult for them.
The people who love us the most, who genuinely do want what is best for us, are still guilty of guilt tripping us.
Have your parents ever gotten mad you skipped a family event, even though you were going through a rough time? Were your friends ever pissed you took too long to answer their texts, even though you were swamped with work? Has your boyfriend/girlfriend ever gotten annoyed about you forgetting to do the dishes, even when you were sick with the flu?
Your loved ones will tell you to stick up for yourself, to take care of yourself, to treat yourself as a priority — but if they need a ride to the airport or help with the laundry or an answer to a text at three AM and you’re not there to help, they will be pissed. In that moment, they won’t care about your self-care. And that’s what makes it so hard to put ourselves first.
These people who love us don’t realize the negative impact they have on us. They aren’t hurting us on purpose just like we aren’t hurting them on purpose (because we are guilty of doing the same things they have done).
It’s time to admit self-care isn’t easy. If you’re struggling to treat yourself as a priority, it’s not your fault.
Maybe you’ve always assumed it’s so hard for you to put yourself first because you care more about other people than you care about yourself. And maybe that is part of the problem. But you cannot deny the fact that other people — even people who love you and treat you well ninety-nine percent of the time — make it even harder for you to practice self-care.