“Our self-respect tracks our choices. Every time we act in harmony with our authentic self and our heart, we earn our respect. It is that simple. Every choice matters.” ~Dan Coppersmith
In theory, putting yourself first sounds like a simple thing. Just do it, right? But it’s not always so easy, is it?
If you’re like most survivors of narcissistic abuse, chances are you think that putting yourself first is a little selfish. After having dealt with a toxic narcissist who could blame you? Narcissists are notorious for tearing us down and making us think we don’t matter – and that THEY do. Not to mention the society that teaches us that we’re supposed to be selfless – all the time. People are often praised for being unselfish, right? It’s not easy to shake off that conditioning. But it’s important for your health and wellbeing that you learn to put those fears aside and start putting yourself first.
Living a balanced and fulfilling life requires a balance between your needs and desires, and those of others. You’ll be in better shape to support other people if you fill your cup first. You will exhaust yourself if you run around everywhere helping everyone. It’s likely to make you feel overwhelmed, even angry and resentful. And that’s no help to anyone!
Did you know? Putting yourself first is good for you! It’s true. Studies have shown that putting yourself first has a range of benefits including
Being taken more seriously and respected by others
Your resilience in dealing with stress is enhanced
You have more control over your life
Your self-esteem will improve
Better physical and mental health
Putting yourself first can be as easy as learning to take responsibility for your own choices by being assertive about your needs. One of the most powerful ways of being assertive is learning to say no calmly and straightforwardly. Are you able to say no when you need to?
Journaling Exercise: Take a few minutes to answer the following questions in your journal.
Does saying no make you feel uncomfortable? Why or why not?
Do you feel like you have the right to say no when you need to? If you said no, are you willing to change that perception?
Can you think of a time that you wanted to say no but couldn’t? In hindsight, what could you have done differently?
What are some phrases you can use to say no when you need to? Write them down and commit them to memory for future reference.
Filling your cup
I don’t know about you, but when I’m not taking care of myself, I find myself feeling DRAINED and EXHAUSTED. The fact is that taking care of yourself is essential as no one can do their best if they’re exhausted. Pushing yourself past your limits will make you sick. In these times of 24/7 availability and communication, it is more necessary than ever to make sure you get the rest and downtime you need.
Filling your cup means taking time out for you, whether that’s spending a quiet evening watching TV, or a weekend hiking in the mountains. It means getting enough sleep; it means setting some boundaries and doing what’s right for you.
Setting a good example
If this still isn’t sitting right with you, consider this. Would you want your friends and loved ones running themselves ragged after you? What do you say when you see your friend or family member is stressed out or overwhelmed? Chances are you’d tell them to relax, right?
The people in your life who have been toxic aren’t really relevant here. But YOU are, and YOU matter, my friend. If it helps, think about what kind of role model you are to your kids if you have any. Not only will they follow your example they’ll pick up on your mood. If you’re stressed out and overworked, your kids will think that’s normal.
All of this begins with having the confidence to believe that we deserve to be treated with love and respect. We first need to recognize our own value and to begin to treat our SELVES with love and respect. It’s difficult, but you really can learn how to unconditionally love and accept yourself. And it is a beautiful thing!
Start with building your personal confidence.
Confidence is an inside game. True confidence comes from a sincere acceptance and love for yourself that isn’t influenced by outside forces. From the inside out, you love and appreciate who and what you are as it ever-evolves into something better. Loving yourself in this way creates space for nurturing when you aren’t feeling your best because no one better than you knows what you need.
Even the most confident people have bad days. From physical aches and pains to emotional stress, confidence doesn’t excuse you from life’s little setbacks. Confidence does, however, make taking care of yourself a bit easier. This is where self-care comes in.
Self-care is the art of nurturing and participating in activities that promote wellness, restoration, and balance. Self-care includes, but isn’t limited to, beauty, hygiene, personal interests, artistic outlets, mental health, physical health, and much more. Self-care is recognizing and responding to what your mind and body needs to be its best at any given time.
Let’s take a look at what self-care is:
Let’s take a look at what self-care is not:
Confidence comes from knowing yourself and what you want. Confident people are fully aware of what they need to feel refreshed and better about themselves. They also understand the value of self-care and don’t feel guilty about caring for themselves, whether that means taking time alone or spending income on a massage. Their worthiness isn’t tied to the costs for self-care… their health is.
There are different sorts of self-care depending on the need.
Physical (Body)– Physical self-care includes activities such as healthy eating, exercise, and hygienic care. Taking care of yourself may include shopping at a farmer’s market or eating organic. It might look like using high-grade essential oils or buying a titanium bike for your riding hobby. Physically caring for yourself may include monthly spa days or bi-weekly pedicures. Whatever the vehicle for pouring into yourself, it is worth it and it is vital.
Emotional (Mind)– Emotional self-care includes activities that restore your mental and physical health and give you back the clarity that is lost when overwhelm and anxiety creep in. From taking in a movie or date-night with your spouse, emotional self-care is as important as any other form of care.
Spiritual (Soul)– Spiritual self-care is the nurturing of your spirit and soul. Depending on your beliefs or your focus, this may include a religious practice, but it also includes the arts, travel, and expanding your social conscience and awareness.
Confidence comes from within and it is from within we are restored. As survivors, we must place a high premium on self-care and make it an integrated part of our lives. Use self-care to feel better about yourself and to model to others the benefits of caring for yourself so you can create the life you truly want and deserve. Isn’t it about time?
This is exactly what happens when you’re dealing with recovering from a toxic relationship, and exactly what you can do to begin to overcome it so you can take back your power and your life in the process! Not just standard “think positive’ advice, but real, meaningful tips that you can start using right now that will help you learn how to handle difficult people in a way that keeps you safe and brings back your personal power.
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.
We’ve discussed a number of ways to strengthen your brain health and to try to ward off cognitive decline. Today, I’d like to address one more, and that’s meditation. There are a host of great things you can obtain through this practice. Enhanced brain function is just one of them. Join me as we take a look at the mental benefits of meditating regularly.
Slowed Aging Process Meditation has been shown to actually alter the connectivity pathways in your brain. The result is the actual slowing of cognitive decline that comes with age. Studies of meditation have resulted in demonstrating that memory loss can be reduced and attention increased in participants who take part in a meditation or mindfulness program.
Stronger Mind Meditation causes you to focus your attention in specific ways and to block out distractions from the outside world. Doing so is one way to increase the levels of neurotransmitters and connections in your brain. Ultimately, your mind will be stronger, more alert and better-performing due to this regular practice.
Memory Retrieval The process of meditating offers you many benefits. One of these is the ability to access long-forgotten memories. The mindfulness and focus attained during meditation give your brain the ability to ignore the outside distractions we’re bombarded with every day. Your mind is then free to go deep into the seldom-used recesses in order to call up memories you may have essentially locked away.
Better Focus and Concentration Meditation encourages mindfulness, the process of being in the moment. Every day we’re faced with tons of outside stimuli. It can be incredibly difficult to gather our thoughts and to pay attention to any one thing, even if that thing is an important one. Through meditating, the neural pathways are strengthened ways that allow for increased focus. In fact, a concept known as neuroplasticity says that these neural connections are actually physically altered within the brain structure, leading to concrete changes.
Increased Memory Storage The areas in which memory is stored are the frontal brain lobe and the Hippocampus. Both of these regions light up on scans when measuring brain activity during meditation. This is evidence that the neural pathways are being stimulated. Your capacity for storing additional memories grows as you practice meditation and stimulate these areas of the brain on a regular basis.
There you have it. Meditation is great for your brain. Give it a try and see if you start to notice a difference in your ability to remember and in your focus.
Are they really a narcissist? What if I was wrong? It wasn’t so bad, was it? Are you asking yourself these questions or feeling like your love will be enough to make things ok/heal the toxic person? You may be experiencing cognitive dissonance and abuse amnesia. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Lise Colucci is one of the narcissistic abuse recovery life coaches at QueenBeeing.com. For info or to schedule a coaching appointment with Lise go to https://queenbeeing.com/lise-colucci-c…
Join The QueenBeeing SPANily (Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships) – AKA “The SPANily” – at https://queenbeeing.com/span.