Are you in the habit of always thinking of everyone else first and putting your own needs dead last? Well, you are not alone! That issue comes up frequently when someone shares with me about their anxiety or depression. There are likely several factors at play that cause you to sell yourself short. But in the end, you are left feeling resentful and exhausted. Who is there to meet your needs?
We have to start “showing up” and making our own needs and wants known. A favorite saying of mine is, “You teach others how to treat you by what you allow”. Powerful stuff! Think about your current relationships. Do these relationships have a 50/50 balance, with you and the other person being equally important? If not, why? Chances are, you definitely deserve to own 50% of the input in the relationship.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be a powerful tool for overcoming the habit of people pleasing. We learn a life time of “messages” we receive from others which reinforce that our opinion doesn’t matter. We learn that it’s not ok to make others upset or disappoint them. That belief may have served you once in your life, but with those kinds of thinking patterns our souls can really take a beating after a while. CBT helps by uncovering the messages you hold to be true and teaches you to re-write the script. The technique of assertive communication is important here, too. The two extremes, passive and aggressive styles of communication, usually aren’t very helpful in the long run. Assertive communication says “Your needs matter, and so do mine”. Try to get in the habit of thinking and responding with that thought in mind.
To many, making themselves a priority has never crossed their mind. How is there room for that when you are busy being supermom/wife/employee…? You may find that by taking care of yourself first, or at least making your self-care an equal priority in the equation, you have more to give to others. You may feel guilt about this, and frankly others may try to make you feel guilty about it, but self-care is vital to mental and physical health. Self-care can be as simple as taking 15 minutes to enjoy coffee with a friend, getting to the gym for a work out, reading quietly- anything you want that is nurturing to your soul. The only requirement is that it takes care of YOU. It is ok to be nice to yourself!
Rachael Nachtigal, LPC