You feel like you’re drowning.
Every day in the wants, needs and expectations of everyone else.
You wanna be a good parent?
You wanna be good at your job?
You wanna be a good friend or neighbour?
Spouse, offspring, other…
We like to provide, to care for, be there for everyone and everything that isn’t ourselves.
Stop it already.
You’re not noble.
You’re not better than anyone else.
No… you’re just screwing yourself over.
Don’t believe me? Fine, don’t.
It’s your incredible life drama, not mine.
But if you do believe me? You’ve realised that I’m actually talking sense (I do that quite often) and you’ve realised that by putting everyone else’s needs and wants of your time, and your energy, and your attention above your own that actually, you feel pretty shit.
You feel tired, drained, worn down.
You’re looking for the “off switch” and not finding it.
You wish, hope, pray, dream, of some peace and quiet.
Maybe you’ve lost the ability to focus.
“Concentrate” is now merely a word on the label of something you need to dilute before using.
You can’t figure out what the hell you’re meant to be doing from one moment to the next.
Perhaps you’ve realised you’re always forgetting things, things that should be simple, like eating, picking something up from the store, ordering the groceries, paying the bills… things that used to come naturally to you.
Things that were just part of your daily routine. Just, gone.
You’re struggling to keep on top of the simple things, yet you’re always busy. Always on the go. Doing this, being there, helping with that. And it’s exhausting!
Because you’re not taking any time for yourself!!!
What happens in your day?
You wake up, hit the ground running as you sort out everyone else, as well as yourself.
You spend the day trying to keep on top of everything.
You’re checking emails while pouring coffee,
reading emails over breakfast,
answering other peoples questions while getting your work done, answering the phone while trying to work,
helping with homework while cooking dinner…
There’s no wonder you’re exhausted.
You’re always playing catch up.
From the moment you open your eyes to the minute you finally crash asleep…
You don’t fall asleep like the others, no, you sit up at night going over all the things you didn’t do, should have done, then you go to bed and wonder if you replied to that email, or you remember that thing you “just need to check” so you grab your phone…
You want to switch off, you try, you put on the TV, or turn on the computer, or pick up the phone. Sometimes you do all three, and none of it helps.
You have no idea what just happened in the show that’s been playing for the past hour, you have 20 browser windows open on the computer and no idea what you even started with, and you’ve scrolled so many social media feeds and still have no clue what’s going on in the world.
You literally cannot focus!
You don’t even know what you’re doing, or why.
YOU NEED TO STOP.
Tell them to be quiet, to handle their own shit, or just wait.
No one, and I mean NO ONE is going to give you the time you need unless you give it to yourself.
Years ago, when I was trying to juggle motherhood, a young baby, and a degree, I would get overwhelmed, I’d start frantically rummaging and flicking through papers, I’d pace back and forth between rooms, looking for something I could never remember. I would get stressed, short tempered, and start downing coffees with every breath.
It wasn’t good for me, but I’d not learned to step away.
I never stopped.
I wanted to get it all done, I needed to.
My partner at the time would come home from work and I’d be sat at the dining room table, papers everywhere, dishes still in the sink, while I frantically tried to just “do” everything.
When I got into that state, he would take over. He would move me away from the chaos, hand me my car keys and tell me to go for a drive.
That was my alone time, my space to just let go of everything.
It was time to breathe, to clear my mind.
Make some space for myself to do nothing.
Oftentimes, I’d end up at a 24-hour supermarket wondering the aisles, picking up a couple things here and there. Sometimes I’d just drive around until I ended up back home.
It always worked.
By taking time out, I would readjust.
I could see things more clearly.
I could make progress on the things I needed to do.
BECAUSE I’d taken the time for me.
It’s something that’s easy to forget to do.
Even when we think we’re taking time for ourselves, we’re probably not.
When we’re scrolling through social media, we’re just taking in even more snippets of even more peoples lives.
When we’re watching something on TV, we’re not really paying attention to ourselves, we’re just putting “us” on a back burner. We’re distracted. For now.
But when it comes to being ourselves, to putting ourselves first, our wants first, our needs… we stop. We clam up, tell ourselves we can’t.
I can’t remember the number of people I’ve looked at and told them they’ve needed to stop. To stop trying to be a superhero or martyr. Pulled them up and told them they’re killing themselves by trying to do what everyone else wants or needs.
“You look like shit” is something I’m well versed in saying.
I’ve had to remind myself of it too. I’m not immune to this habit of putting myself last.
Some people would argue that I’m cold, hard, uncaring. Some would even go as far as to say I’m selfish.
Because I make them wait.
Or sometimes, because I’ve cut them off completely.
Usually, this is after a period of time where I’ve given and given, and realised I can’t any more, or I shouldn’t.
Usually when I’ve realised that the relationship, in whatever form, is one sided. When people have become dependant on me just “being there” at the drop of a hat, and they pay no mind to other things I may have going on in my life. Or it’s got to the point where all I do is give, and have very little, or nothing, in return.
And yes, to those people, I’m selfish. And if that’s how they feel, then so be it.
I’m not going to fall back into my old ways just to appease them, or try to change their opinions. I don’t need to.
I know me, I know who I am.
Their need of me does not define me. Neither does their opinion.
And it certainly doesn’t dictate how I should or will spend my days.
For some, this is hard.
For some, we want to give what we can. Especially as parents, we want to give our children the world, open them up to ideas and opportunities that maybe weren’t available to us.
We want them to live a life we maybe just dreamed of.
And then we find ourselves failing.
Falling at every hurdle.
Struggling to get to grips with reality not looking like the dreams in our minds.
Well… it’s quite simple.
We can’t give what we don’t have.
While we’re busy giving away all we have in any moment, we’re not able to build what we want for ourselves. We have no tools, no resources, no energy, to put into building those things that we want so desperately for others. For ourselves.
We can’t provide the lives we want for our families, if we give them all of our time and energy.
That life doesn’t come from nowhere. It comes when you work for it.
You can’t give up a well paid job to live a life of luxury on no income.
You can’t get the big house, with no cash to pay for it.
You can’t have the relationship you want if you’re giving all your attention to others.
It’s that simple.
Stop putting everyone else’s wants and needs above your own.
Make people wait.
Set boundaries. Expectations.
Let it be known that you’ll handle it when the time comes.
But first, you gotta handle you.
Do what YOU need, first.
Make YOU the number one priority.
Your life, your wants, your needs, your health.
Once you put YOU first, you’ll soon start to realise how much easier it is for everyone else to get what they want.
And you won’t feel anywhere near as exhausted.
So do me a favour. Do yourself a favour.
Decide right now that you’re going to put your needs and wants first.
Decide that you’re OK with that.
Decide that it’s OK if everyone else waits a little while (it won’t be that much longer, but it will feel like it to start)
Then stick to it.
And when everything gets a little heavy, a little frantic, and you start to feel frazzled.
Stop. Breathe. And ask yourself… what do I need? Right now, in this moment.
Then do it.