Close your eyes for a moment and try to answer the question, “What matters most to me?” The chances are that your thoughts will turn to family and loved ones.
But what about you?
Service to others and putting other people first is ingrained for many of us so it’s often difficult to push our needs to the forefront.
“You’re selfish.” “You’re a bad parent.” “You’re not doing the right thing.”
These are some of the phrases that echo in our mind when we try to think of doing something ‘just for me’.
My good friend Julie is tearing her hair out because her mother, who is in a nursing home, is becoming a bit of a pocket Hitler. She knows she has her two daughters at her beck and call, yet when she was the one who was the carer, she didn’t really do a good job, often riding rough shod over the needs of her girls.
Guilt is the driver in this relationship and perhaps the fear of what others might say.
Julie said, “My mother wasn’t a very good mother and nor was she a particularly good wife.”
Some people might say that it’s now up to Julie to be a better person than her mother but where do Julie’s needs come into the equation? Why should the needs of her cranky, mother take precedence? There’s an underlying anger there and a feeling of once again, being made to ‘carry the can’ for a mother who never really cared yet society’s ‘mores’ dictate that we must always put others first.
So why is it important for Julie to consider her own needs?
Because our happiness is the core energy that feeds us and those around us, radiating out to family and friends, we need to put ourselves first more often. If you don’t’ ‘feed’ your energy, you can end up with not a lot to give. If you don’t truly care about yourself, then the chances are that you’re giving out the wrong messages, however much you work to make things right for everyone else. Running round after everyone else can be a bit wearing when you never really feel appreciated but how can people appreciate what you do when you don’t really appreciate yourself?
Where to start?
Begin by thinking of all the good things you do. This might be a bit hard if you’re always critical and negative about yourself but it gets easier with practise. During therapy sessions I’ve given up using the ‘mantra’ which used to be the precursor to the older form of EFT therapy because often when people are faced with actually saying. “I’m wonderful.” or something equally nice about themselves, they have a melt down or at the very least, it just fills their head with lots of ‘Buts’.
Get over the ‘Buts’ and try to say nice things about yourself, to yourself each day so that you’re building your positive image instead of tearing it down with self doubt.
Building self esteem can be a slow process but one way to work through the negatives is to accept that there are some things that are outside your control and so it’s not your fault if things go wrong from time to time.
Find a quiet moment and allow yourself time to reflect on your day or your week.
Put your right hand on your forehead and your left hand at the back of your head and work through what has been happening.
It’s really, really important to acknowledge the things that you’ve done well.
“I organised a great family dinner on Saturday.” Would surely be a positive but it’s often something we take for granted.
“I was angry and said things I shouldn’t have said. Even though I apologized, I still feel bad.” There’s absolutely nothing you can do about that now and it’s in the past so imagine ‘washing your hands’ of the problem and letting it go.
“I really made a mess of that but I’ll do better next time.” Acknowledge that you’re not perfect but let go of the incident and move forward knowing that you’ll do something differently next time.
Instead of beating yourself up about what you did wrong, move on!! Believe in the good things you do and let your esteem grow. Tell yourself often that you’re wonderful (even if you don’t fully believe it) and you will actually begin to feel different. Confidence comes when we feel good about who we are and that will only come if you stop dwelling on the negatives and focus instead on the awesome person that you are.