One of the biggest struggles for survivors of narcissistic abuse is learning that they need to start putting themselves first – or at least to consider themselves a top priority. This seems easier than it might actually be, especially for those of us who have been through the hell of being connected to a toxic person. In addition to our own perceptions about what we SHOULD be, we have society telling us that we’re supposed to always put other people before ourselves.
Think about it: how many times did your mom tell you not to be selfish? How much social pressure is there for you to be selfless?
Those who haven’t experienced these toxic relationships really don’t understand how difficult it can be to start prioritizing yourself without feeling guilty. If you’re having trouble putting yourself first, maybe it’s time to look at what limiting beliefs might be holding you back. It’s time to start letting go of those beliefs and taking control of our perception (and our own lives).
1. People won’t like me anymore
This belief is the bedrock of the “putting yourself first is selfish” credo. If you start to say no or set some boundaries, then maybe people will stop thinking you’re a good person. They might even stop being your friend. It’s a fair bet that if you’ve been a pushover in the past, once you start saying no you’ll get some pushback.
The thing is that the people who might push away from you might also be toxic. But for those who are your real friends and who really care, you’ll find something very different happens. If you’re polite but firm, they’ll accept that you can’t run yourself ragged doing what everyone else wants all the time. They might even respect you more for your honesty!
2. But I’m the one who’s always there!
The eternal caregiver is an insidious role to take on, and it’s one that is commonly accepted by survivors of narcissistic abuse. It can even become emotionally manipulative. Look deep into your heart and ask yourself why you feel the need to take care of everyone. What would happen if you didn’t? Who would you be? How would life be different? And if you don’t start taking care of yourself, might you become someone who gets burnt out and resentful?
Cut yourself and everyone else some slack and let other people help too. As a bonus, if you make sure your own needs are satisfied, you’ll be in a much better position to give.
3. I should put others first
Elementary schools and Sunday schools teach that you should always put others first. Sure, it’s important for kids to learn to take turns and be polite, but in adulthood, it can become emotionally toxic to always put others’ needs before your own.
When you do this, you’re telling your unconscious mind that your own needs don’t matter, that other people are more important and that you are undeserving. And if you think about it, that is exactly where your narcissist wanted you to be.
Plus, it’s a recipe for thinking small, believing you can’t achieve anything, and you don’t deserve to succeed.
These three core beliefs need to be challenged and overcome if you’re going to develop a healthier attitude to putting yourself first. Like changing any habit, you need to practice and take baby steps first.
Have a look at what your own needs and desires are, and practice saying yes to what your body, mind, and heart need.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.