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You are No 1: here’s how to put you first!

Being others-centred can leave you exhausted and resentful. Take care of your own needs, too.

17 November 2016
4 minute read

woman with hat smiling

This four-part series offers practical steps leading to a happy and successful 2017. In part one , life coach Judy Klipin encouraged us to only change what we can and let the rest go. In part two, she looks at the common problem of being so ‘others-centred’ that your own needs take second place.

How often do you find yourself going to a restaurant you hate because your friends love it? Or watching a TV series that your partner finds riveting but sends you to sleep? Or not doing something because you are worried that it will upset someone?

If this sounds like you, you are in very good company. Many of the clients I work with in my coaching practice are what I call ‘others-centered.’ They put everybody else at the centre of their worlds, and themselves on the periphery. They put other people’s needs (be they real or imagined) first, and their own last. They say yes when they mean no, and no when they mean yes. They are so concerned with the well-being of others that they forget how to look after themselves.

Why do you do it – and why it’s bad for you! Others-centeredness is a bad habit and those of us who do it, have been doing it for a very long time – probably since we were children.

It may have started off as a desire to please a parent and get rewarded - you ate the spinach you hated so that you could have the ice-cream you loved. It probably evolved to wanting to fit in and be accepted - you wore the ‘right’ clothes to attract the attention of the guy or girl you had a crush on. You may even have started to smoke and drink to impress others. When you got married, you found yourself spending time with your spouse’s family and friends, even the ones you don’t like all that much. As a parent, you probably find yourself listening to your kids’ music in the car, just to keep the peace.

Your others-centeredness has evolved and developed over time, just as you have. What started off as a desire to show love for others can progress into an inability to show love for yourself.

Being all things to all people becomes ingrained in our thoughts and actions and we forget to think about what we need to be to ourselves. We don’t ask for help; we don’t say no to anyone and we most certainly don’t put ourselves first. Or second. Or even third…

In our desire to look after others, we neglect to look after ourselves. When we are too focused on doing things for others, we may struggle to allow other people to do things for us - even though we crave being looked after.

When we consistently put ourselves last (even if we aren’t asked to do so) we end up angry, resentful and burned out. Our health suffers, our self-esteem suffers and – ironically - our relationships suffer. When we start to realise, at the end of almost every day, that we forgot to remember ourselves, we start to get angry with the people who we did remember.

Our others-centeredness starts off as an attempt to build and protect relationships. But, left unchecked, it can be the very thing that breaks those relationships apart.

Here’s how to you can protect yourself and your relationships:

  1. Look after your own needs. Remember to ask yourself who’s needs you are looking after before you make a decision or commit to something – especially if it is something you are unsure about doing.
  2. Do something for you. Every day, make a point of doing something just for you, with no guilt. Listen to your favorite song, read a chapter of your book, have a candle-lit bath… you don’t have to run away and join the circus to start honoring yourself again.
  3. Say yes to you. You don’t have to do everything that you are asked (or even not asked) to do. You can choose what you do and don’t do. Say yes to you by saying no to something or someone else every now and then.
  4. Ask for help when you need it. Letting people help you is letting people love you.
  5. Trust. Trust that the people who love you will carry on loving you even when you do things for yourself, when you say no and when you ask for help. (And if they don’t, then they don’t deserve you.)

Don’t let your impulse to look after others become a destructive rather than a positive force in your life. Make sure you look after your own needs, too.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of 1Life or its employees.

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