You Come First
Make yourself happy first, then it’s fulfilling to give to others. Stop giving up yourself for the sake of your spouse, family or career. There is plenty of love to go around. You come first, then others.
Men seem to learn this – they focus on their career and their recreational interests. Moreover, they often seem selfish. Women seem to focus on everyone else’s needs and interests while managing their career and their family. Women must learn to put their needs and desires first while expecting their husbands to give a little more to the family and household. If I could but both of the sexes in a blender, I think we would be in good shape on this issue.
If you love yourself first, then you have the desire and energy to love others. There is no need to burn yourself out loving and taking care of others. Stop it! Be healthily selfish. Take care of your needs and then the others – your loved one, your kids, and your friends. Flight attendants tell us to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first, then on our children. There might not be a you to love others if you do not love yourself first.
Lily Lost Herself in her Taking Care of Family
Women in their 20’s 30’s 40’s 50’s and even older are learning to put themselves number one. Lily is a 45-year-old wife and mother who finally could speak up and say she was depressed and unhappy. On a Tahitian vacation, she woke up in her marriage of 20 years, unable to find herself. She knew she had been unhappy for about 5 years but she didn’t realize she had lost herself in her family. She felt fortunate to be able to quit her highly paid administrative job and stay home to raise their three children.
Oliver was a happy man and was surprised to hear about her misery. Lily had hidden it from him and not talked about it, hoping the denial might make it disappear and the lovely vacations would bring back the long dying spark of chemistry with Oliver. By the time I saw them, she, like thousands of other wives, was blaming her spouse and seriously considering divorce.
The Answer Lies Within, Not in Divorce
The answer is usually not divorce. The answer lies within. Lily only had to create her own happiness. She needed to find the part of her that was not being nourished and spend time fulfilling those needs, wants and desires. She joined the board of a local women’s club doing charity work and using her leadership skills. She also joined a book club to make friends with other professional women with whom she could have an intellectual conversation. Having been a jogger in her twenties, she also decided to join a running club and train for a marathon.
Lily created the parts of her life that were missing and in the process, her marriage improved. Oliver was supportive of her activities, wishing only for her happiness, willing to do whatever he could. Usually your needs will fit with your spouse’s. Focus on yourself and choose happiness and well-being.
Lots of the buzz these days is about women after 50 finding themselves and everyone recreating themselves for the “new” retirement. I remember turning 50 and saying to myself – oh, now I can be who I really am and only do what I want to do. I say, STOP! That is excessively late. This is what you are supposed to do as an adult.
When we are in our twenties we are exploring the world of adulthood, getting educated, deciding on a career, dating, deciding on a spouse, where we live, what we believe in, what we defend. In our thirties, we are really honing our skills and polishing our talents. Certainly, by this time we need to be focusing on what makes me tick. What do I need to satisfy and fulfill me in ways of love, children, family, friends, interests, recreation, spirituality, intellectual pursuits, emotional satisfaction, financial security, service and helping others, fun and pleasure.
What You Can Create When You Don’t Address Your Needs
When you put others constantly first at the expense of yourself, you can create depression, anxiety, anger, victimization of yourself, divorce and often debilitating illnesses. You could choose healthy self-love and happiness. Every week for over 35 years, I have sat across from men and women in emotional pain from not paying attention to their own needs, wants and desires. I have probably told an average of 15 to 20 people a week to love yourself first and get a life! The life YOU want! Those who listen and get it then go out and create a life for themselves – one that addresses their individual needs and desires as well as their family’s.
In three months, you can have your cake and be eating it too. Just don’t forget to be kind to the ones you are closest to while you are focusing on your desires, purpose, engagement, and meaning. Go for your joy and happiness while balancing your needs for family and relationship. When you are happy and your life is flourishing, you will experience the joy of loving yourself and helping others.