“Taking care of myself doesn’t mean ‘me first.’ It means ‘me, too.” ~L.R. Knost
Going through narcissistic abuse will really throw you for a loop when it comes to self-value. After all, when you’re going through a toxic relationship, or you’re raised by a narcissistic mother or father, you are taught that you don’t matter, that you have no value, that you’re not important.
But now, I hope you’re learning that it just isn’t true.
You ARE important. You DO matter. You ARE worthy.
And yes, you might think that putting yourself first is selfish. After all, have been groomed by someone (not to mention society) to think of others first, and yourself last – always, right? But the safety advice they give you in airplanes is also a good mantra for life: you need to look after yourself first before you can help other people. You cannot help anyone else if you aren’t okay first.
Here are the top four reasons why it’s important, even necessary, to put yourself first.
1. You need to fill your own cup
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the demands and obligations of family, friends, and colleagues? Whether it’s running after kids, getting your presentation done, running an eco-responsible household, making time to connect, or even staying on top of your emails, modern life can suck you dry if you allow it. There is no way you can hope to keep up unless you remember to fill your own cup. Take care of yourself and make sure you get what you need. A walk in the sunshine, an early night, a sofa and Netflix day, regular gym and yoga sessions or your monthly knitting circle. Make sure you schedule in whatever it is that brings you joy and energy. Then you can be your best you for all the other people in your life.
2. You’re in charge of your life
There’s no Fairy Godmother to save you or take care of you or give you the life you want. It’s totally up to you to step up and take responsibility for your life and your happiness. If you want to be an airline pilot or run a philanthropic foundation or a certified organic farm, that’s great. But it’s up to you to prioritize what you want in life and go for it. Reaching your dreams means putting yourself first.
3. It’s not Me versus You
Putting yourself first doesn’t mean you disregard the needs or desires of others. To live an authentic fulfilled life, you need to learn to compromise, negotiate and balance your needs with the people who depend on you. If one of those things is out of balance, you’ll be depleted and resentful, and no one will get their needs met!
Learn to find joy in receiving as well as giving, and don’t for a minute think that putting yourself first is selfish. Let other people support you, and you’ll be in better shape to support them.
“Givers need to set limits because takers rarely do.” ~Rachel Wolchin
As an empath, you’re a giver. Often, you give more than you should, and often beyond what you can. Trust me, I get it.
As we both know, that leads to becoming a people-pleaser – and before you know it, you’re overwhelmed with toxic “emotional vampires” – also known as narcissists. The worst part is that even when you clear all the toxic people out of your life, chances are that at least every now and again, you’ll meet someone who tests your patience. You know the type I mean – those people you just need to enforce your boundaries with, or they’ll overwhelm you.
Often your body will start sending you signals that this person isn’t respecting your boundaries, but sometimes you can be so preoccupied with wondering if they’ll like you or not, that you can miss the cues. If you start feeling uncomfortable, here are seven signs that you need to up your boundary work and protect yourself from other people’s egos.
1. You feel exhausted. Egocentric people (toxic narcissists) don’t respect other people’s boundaries. They are exhausting to be with as all they do is take, take, take. If you have to have contact with someone who makes you feel like this, manage the time and place, so your exposure is limited, or you can share the energy suck with someone else, a friend, family member or colleague.
2. You feel angry and resentful. When your boundaries aren’t respected, you end up feeling angry and resentful because someone is taking advantage of you. Does this person always cancel at the last minute or ask you to pick up their child or do the monthly project report? Do they take all the credit and do little or none of the work? Time to stand up for yourself and draw some lines in the sand.
3. You feel defensive. Is your boundary predator always finding fault or criticizing you? Do you constantly feel on the defensive? People who don’t respect boundaries make themselves feel better by criticizing others. Don’t fall for this, it’s abusive, and you don’t have to put up with it.
4. You feel you can’t refuse. It’s easy to end up in a position where you feel you can’t say no. And once you establish that pattern, it’s hard to refuse. But it’s always ok to say no, it’s always a choice available to you. Unless it’s an emergency, you are perfectly entitled to refuse to do anything you don’t want to do. End of story.
5. Is your body trying to tell you something? Notice how your body reacts when you’re around a manipulative or gaslighting person.
- Does your stomach tighten?
- Are your palms sweaty?
- Is your mouth dry and your heart racing?
Your body is signaling that this person isn’t safe to be around. Put yourself first and get out of there! Pay attention to the cues you’re being given and keep those boundaries strong.
Need help keeping your boundaries in check? Check out my free ebook and mini-course and start changing your life now.
Being your authentic self sounds wise and all, but it’s not always easy for survivors of narcissistic abuse. The truth is that we often have to sort of rebuild ourselves – or maybe even invent ourselves for the first time. That’s one of the biggest problems we experience after abuse – not knowing who we really are.
I say it’s time to embrace YOU, the true and authentic YOU! Are you with me? It might not be easy, but it’s SO worth it! And it’s an important part of the evolution process that we go through as survivors after abuse.
And, hey. Did you know that being true to yourself has a range of benefits? Studies have shown that authenticity is more than a feel-good way of life, it is good for your health, relationships, even your career!
Here are some of the top benefits of living an authentic life.
1. Greater self-confidence. To live an authentic life has a significant effect on your self-confidence. You like yourself more, you trust your judgment, you acknowledge and work with your own unique set of skills and talents, and you make better choices that align with how you want to be.
2. More respect. As your confidence grows, you’ll inspire respect in others as they see you living in your truth. Everyone wants someone to look up to, and people recognize and respect authenticity. You’ll find yourself being a role model for others.
3. Greater trust. When people see you living in alignment with your values, see you being straightforwardly yourself, their trust in you will soar. And trustworthy people make great leaders. If you become known for being honest and trustworthy, you’re more likely to be promoted or given opportunities.
4. Better health. Living in alignment means you’re much more likely to take care of yourself, you’ll prioritize self-care, rest and balance. Researchers found that people committed to living an authentic life were more likely to eat healthy foods, exercise and get regular physical exams. Being your authentic self also sets you up for better mental health as you are calmer, less conflicted and are generally all around happier!
5. Greater resilience. People who are at peace with their true selves are much more resilient when it comes to dealing with life’s ups and downs. They deal better with stress, which in turn has great benefits for their physical health. They don’t spend their lives in the cortisol soup that comes from being highly stressed.
6. Better relationships. Being authentic leads to better relationships because you’re not pretending to be someone else. You can be honest and straightforward about who you are and what you value, without fear of being judged. You’re also better at managing boundaries and less judgmental of your partner.
And ultimately, living an authentic life means that when you come to the end of your natural life, there shouldn’t be any regrets! You’ve probably seen those lists of top regrets of the dying and resolved not to be one of those people. Start now by choosing to live authentically. Choose to be authentic and choose to be happy!
Learning to be assertive is one of the most important life skills you can develop. That’s true for anyone – but especially for narcissistic abuse survivors. Studies have shown that being assertive can lead to a whole host of benefits, from increased self-confidence to better relationships and improved mental and physical health.
Before you start, it’s important to understand what being assertive means. Psychologists define assertiveness as being able to express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view while respecting the rights and beliefs of others. The basis of assertiveness is mutual respect and honesty. Assertive communicators are straightforward and know how to set and maintain healthy boundaries. Their relationships value and promote trust.
If you’re serious about living an authentic life and succeeding in reaching your goals, learning to be assertive is crucial.
Think about how you feel about your life right now.
- Are you satisfied with your personal and professional situation?
- Are you conflict avoidant?
- Do you worry about what other people think of you?
If you’re not happy with where you are now, the good news is that assertiveness is a habit that can be learned just like any other. With practice and commitment, you can change your mindset and live a life more aligned with your true values and aspirations.
Try these tips for introducing a more assertive approach into your life:
- Decide what your priorities are and stick to them.
- Work out your individual boundaries.
- Develop a positive open posture and look people in the eye when you speak to them.
- Use positive “I’ statements about how you’re feeling instead of blaming or finding fault with the other person. Be especially wary of feeling tempted to say, “you always’ or “you never.’
- Get comfortable with saying “no’ to things you don’t want to or can’t do. Keep it simple and non-emotive and don’t feel you need to add an excuse or explanation.
- Only use “sorry’ when it’s appropriate for the situation. You don’t need to apologize for saying no.
- Offer alternative suggestions to proposals you don’t like.
- Look for compromises.
- Be honest and direct about your feelings, thoughts, and intentions.
- Consider writing a script for a situation that feels awkward. Rehearse being confident.
- Try to keep your focus on the impact of the situation and finding a way to work together to find a mutually satisfying solution.
Above all, being assertive means staying in your power, accepting that you have control over how you approach the situation and your feelings about it. Assertiveness won’t get you everything you want all the time, but you will feel in control and deal much better with situations that would have previously been stressful.
FYI: I’m currently offering a free ebook and mini-course on how survivors of narcissistic abuse can be more assertive in setting boundaries if you’re interested. You can sign up for free right here.