It feels funny declaring it out loud: “I choose me.” It sounds down right, self-centered, and selfish to even say –totally unbecoming of any wife, mother, or employee.
Certainly, a mother would always choose her children over herself, a good wife would choose to prioritize her man’s needs, and a good employee would surely save up those sick days and vacation days never using them to prove loyalty to a company that frequently overtasks and underpays. Right? Nah, sis. I threw a flag on the play!
For the first time in my life, I am choosing to prioritize me, and I must say that it is the most freeing decision that I’ve ever made. I am telling people no — unapologetically, without guilt or the need for an explanation.
Them: Can you? Me: No. I cannot.
Them: Will you just….(insert a non-emergency task on my already full plate)? Me: I won’t be able to this time.
Them: You’re not doing anything. Me: See. That’s where you are wrong. I’ve scheduled time for myself to do me.
Not ugly at all. Straightforward, but not ugly.
To be fully transparent though, it was really hard for me at first. I don’t like to disappoint people, and I like to help if I can help, but what I’ve learned over the years is that saying “yes” EVERY SINGLE TIME someone needs me means that I end up saying “no” to myself when I KNOW that I desperately need time to reset, refresh, focus or RE-focus.
This is major, because all of my life I have been taught how to deplete my cup for others –give until I had given all. It’s a habit –a learned behavior that I have to now bring back into balance.
As a woman who had to scrape up the pieces of her life after divorce and make a way raising and providing for two children, I mastered the art of sacrifice. I went years without buying new shoes and clothes for myself so that my children could have quality childcare and decent clothes of their own. When my children were younger there were times that I told them that I wasn’t hungry so that they could eat and be completely full first. I’ve put dreams on hold for decades doing a job that pays the bills even though my desire is to be doing more. I’ve babysat other people’s children on days I should have been working on my business or indulging in my own self-care. I’ve spent nights and weekends working on work “off-the-clock” just to make sure it got done — even if that meant I wouldn’t be compensated for my valuable time and knowledge. Work eventually became a thing that had no boundaries.
This is by no means a complaint. Again, THIS IS NOT A COMPLAINT. I did those things willingly because they needed to be done. Honestly, it’s who I am and who I will probably always be. However, I do want to illustrate how years of sacrifice conditioned me.
Once I got on my feet and had a little more to spare financially, I would see something nice that I wanted (that was completely affordable and wouldn’t blow my budget). I would pick it up. Put it in my cart, and walk around the store long enough to convince myself to put it back. I was conditioned to believe that I didn’t need it. Somewhere in my mind, I believed that someone, somewhere could possibly need that $50, my $50 soon.
There was even a time in my career where the stress was manifesting in my health. I was passing out and throwing up before going into the workplace. I would cry driving to work, in-between classes or sitting at my desk, but, honey, those tears dried up when it was time to leave. *Insert freedom run to the parking lot.* Interestingly enough though, I kept showing up to give even more to my students who needed me or to be there for my teachers who relied on my expertise. So many educators follow the same suit. Looking back, I needed SEVERAL mental health days that I did not take. *Insert regret.*
Something has shifted. I can see clearly now, and here’s what I realize choosing me has done for me:
1.) Increased my energy
2.) Elevated my happiness
3.) Removed resentment
4.) Increased my capacity to engage in healthy conflict and be an advocate for myself
Choosing me keeps my cup full to the point of overflow. Ironically, it has made me a better mother, wife and employee. By booking trips that rejuvenate, by blocking off a couple of Saturdays to do nothing but watch Grey’s Anatomy, eat peanut M&Ms and cry, by making sure the book or shoes that I really want make it to the cashier every once in a while, by not dropping everything to be someone’s rescue all the time, I’m better. I’m better to me, and I’m better to others.
Choosing me and prioritizing myself doesn’t mean that I give up sacrificing or doing for others. It doesn’t mean that I become mean and hateful to others. It doesn’t mean that I never volunteer or offer my time or talents, and it definitely doesn’t mean living irresponsibly as an adult and not taking care of business.
Choosing me and prioritizing myself means that I choose to love myself, give to myself, and do for myself just as much as I do for others. It means that when I look in the mirror, the woman staring back at me knows that she is loved by me.
I wish you all love, peace, prosperity, and, of course, the courage to prioritize yourself.