What feeling comes over you when you hear the words, “me first”?
What thought pops into your mind?
If it’s a physical feeling of shame or guilt, accompanied by the thought, “You’re selfish”… please read this blog post. This is for you.
If it’s a powerful feeling of control and entitlement, please don’t read this post. This is not for you.
I struggle with working too much. I have this wonderfully idealistic vision of the happiness and freedom of running my own businesses, but my reality as a self-employed individual doesn’t exactly match that vision. I push myself eight times harder than any employer ever has or probably ever would.
Some call this “overachieving” or “perfectionism”. I have usually just called it “working hard” and “doing my best”. But then my body crashes and I think, Wellll… maybe “overachiever” is more accurate than I’d like to admit…
Working hard has helped me achieve many great things. I’m thankful for my education, which I know I got the most out of, and for all of the jobs and accomplishments I’ve had so far. But it wasn’t the actual job or accomplishment that brought the most satisfaction or reward. It was the moments within them, where I stopped to enjoy them, where joy or love were experienced.
The truth is, I have never been good about drawing boundaries in the area of work. I rarely allow myself to “play,” and if I do, it’s because I’m sensitive to my kid’s need for me to to slow down, relax, and enjoy a fun activity with him. (Kids can actually be super helpful, if you let them, in learning how to enjoy life for no reason!)
Anyway, this last “body crash” had me reflecting. What IS it that keeps me pushing so hard, at the expense of my own physical health? Who in the world am I trying to impress?!
And I know who it is. Those external voices from my youth have been so powerfully internalized; this is the only way I have known. The lie is: “Productivity will make me feel worthy at the end of the day.”
But my body is desperately trying to tell me the truth: “This is self-abandonment at its finest. You are in the business of helping others take care of themselves better, and here you are abandoning me! Stop taking care of them for a minute and TAKE CARE OF ME!”
I think I maybe heard myself face-palm myself… What can I say? Your mess becomes your message, right??
Overworking is not necessarily a problem specific to highly sensitive people. But the effects of overworking are really extra hard on HSPs. We’ve got important messages to carry into the world, but our nervous systems need certain kinds of TLC to function at their finest.
If you can identify… when was the last time you did something for yourself? Just read a book, or watched a movie, or spent time ENJOYING a walk outside (not as discipline – just as FUN)? What did you require of yourself before you could take this momentary respite?
Is this difficult for anyone else? What makes it so hard for you?
I think many of us “overachievers” have deeply engrained messaging that says, “If you do something solely for fun, you are selfish.” Maybe you were flat out told you were selfish as a child, for simply having emotional or intellectual needs that your caregivers could not or would not be expected to meet. Certain important relationships were often all-business or transactional, never just for your pure enjoyment or satisfaction. If an interaction was just plain enjoyable or satisfying, it probably happened as a means toward the ultimate end of some sort of productive task or goal.
I battle a fear that I am not getting enough things done. Not being productive enough. At times I recognize it and fight for my self-care. But recently, that fear (compounded by the economic hardship of being a self-employed, homeschooling, single mom in a pandemic-economy… okay yes, that’s a factor here)… is enough to throw me into jam-packed 16-hour workdays, at times running on four hours of sleep a night.
Today I took some time to listen to my higher self about my struggle with working too much. And do you know what she said? It took me by surprise, but I clearly heard the words: “ME FIRST.”
I heard it in a way that sounded pressing, demanding – like, “PLEASE. You MUST begin to put yourself first. You are beating yourself into the ground. You NEED to put everything down and take care of your body, NOW.”
I know what this means for me. More sleep. More reading. More deep breathing. More movies. More AFTs. More laughing. More meditation. More playing. For enjoyment! Not as discipline.
It also means more imperfections. More mishaps. More misunderstandings. More missed deadlines.(Cringe.) And more missed opportunities.
“Me first” requires a letting go. Letting go of old expectations and clinging to new ones. Letting go of what I used to see as good, and clinging to something I know as even better.
Life is flying by and I have big dreams for my ministry and my business. But the pressure that begins to drive me comes from an old place… a place where I was told that productivity and perfectionism ARE the joy. This is a lie. And it has NOTHING to do with who I am at my core. It only comes from fear of what will happen if I’m not productive.
Productivity and perfectionism should not come first.
My higher self says I’m going to be okay.
She says that even if I take the time to enjoy something that only benefits me… I’m honoring myself, and in doing so honoring the God who made me worth caring for.
She is relaxed, enjoys her life, and is able to receive grace.
She takes care of her mind, emotions, and body so that she’s able to just show up as herself. Regardless of whether anyone understands or accepts her. Regardless of whether she lives up to their expectations.
I hope you get to meet her, because she makes you feel like you’re worth it, too.
My true self is not driven by fear of making mistakes or letting herself down. The real me is ambitious and determined, yes… but also intuitive, whimsical, creative, and kind of funny. Being myself is worth taking a half hour to finish this blog post simply because I’m a writer, and it brings me joy to write… regardless of how many people actually read it. Following my intuition is wise and worth every minute of meditation and AFT. Being bravely myself, knowing I will mess up and let people down sometimes… is what I was put on this earth to do.
I think I am going to interject “me first” into my current affirmation, so it will be…
“Today’s work is enough. Me first.“
It feels so rebellious.
Goes against much of what I was taught as a Christian. Which is why I’m pretty sure Jesus would love it. Folks, he said, “Love your neighbor AS YOURSELF.” That statement assumes some sort of love for self! And some of us have done a terrible job of loving ourselves… so how can we possibly expect to love neighbors any more than that??
And yes, Jesus did say that in his Kingdom, the last would be first and the first would be last. He was talking about getting rid of worldly authority structures, but even if he was referring to our well-being versus our productivity… pretty sure he would fully endorse our well-being 100%. Thy Kingdom COME, on earth as it is in heaven, remember??
So if you’re the type that tends to let people walk over you, talk over you, and tell you your needs are “too much”… it might be time to consider a full-out rebellion. Fight the lie. Let go of the project. Run back to your true self and take care of you first.
I dare you to say it.
All of you who have put your self last.
The world needs you to do this.
But more importantly: You’re worth it.
Whisper it with me if you need to…