How much time do you spend doing things for other people? Running around for them, going out even when you feel tired, pushing yourself that little bit further because it’s what you feel you should do? I’ve been guilty of doing ALL of those things. Saying yes when I didn’t want to, going out when I didn’t feel like it and pushing myself too hard until I’m an exhausted mess.
Over the past few months I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have felt run down and exhausted. They’ve given everything to everyone else and pushed themselves so hard they have nothing left to give themselves or anyone else, they’ve hit rock bottom. It’s a real problem, guys!
We’re quite often told it’s admirable to be giving, generous and reliable, but the admiration only comes when you’re seen to be giving those things to someone else, not to yourself. Imagine if you changed your perspective and prioritised yourself, so the person you were giving, generous and reliable to, was yourself!
You know how, on a good friend or family members birthday, you go out of your way to pick up or bake their favourite cake or hunt down one of their favourite things to surprise them with? Imagine if you did that for yourself and started treating yourself like a very important family member or close friend.
It may sound like a simple thing to do, but it’s the kind of thing that changed my life. If you read last week’s personal post, I spoke about how I was looking for answers about what I should do with my life and why I was unhappy. I looked everywhere, except within myself. When it finally came time to sit down and work out what I wanted, I couldn’t. I could hardly remember what I wanted or what I enjoyed anymore because I spent so much time and energy doing things I thought people wanted me to do.
I was so worn down, exhausted and confused I thought my only option in life was to stay in my regular office job until I retired. Looking back at that now, I can’t understand how I let myself get to that point and I want other people, like you, to know you don’t have to feel that way. There’s a way out!
I remember taking a personality profile quiz once, before I got my shit together, it was a Myers-Briggs one that pinpoints your personality type. As I answered the questions I imagined all the people I knew and what they would say about me, “Oh yes, Mary would definitely say I’m the life of the party,” and, “Ah, yeah, I like to be around people. That’s how I feel energised.” Their opinions or perceptions of me are how I answered all of the questions on the quiz.
When I got the personality results back and read through it, it didn’t sound like me at all. But I assumed it must be, because, everyone else knows me better than I know me, right? Ahhhh no.
It took a long time for me to feel comfortable enough to re-do that quiz and answer the questions truthfully. For the longest time I was afraid of not being ‘good enough’ if I didn’t answer the questions in the way I thought others would want them to be answered. But, when I finally did answer them truthfully and got my results back, I was so relieved. It was validating! The world didn’t end, I didn’t have everyone in my life abandon me, all I got was some honest insight into who I really was.
For the first time in a long time, I started being honest with myself. I stopped telling white lies too. If someone asked me if I wanted to do something and I didn’t feel like it, I’d tell them honestly, “Sorry, I’m really tired. I’m just going to stay home.” Why? Because every time I told a white lie, like, “Sorry, I can’t make it to dinner cos… umm.. It’s my cat’s birthday,” I took away from the value of my needs. I detracted from my own value. I made the lie more important than my own feelings and needs! That’s madness. If I feel too tired to go out, that’s important and shouldn’t be diminished.
I don’t like going out to dinner parties with loads of people I barely know. I don’t like being around big crowds and I don’t like being the centre of attention. I much prefer to be at home, listening to music, or in another peaceful environment with a few people I feel close to, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I also like listening to an oddly large amount of 90s rap, hip-hop and dance music… that’s a little weird, but also okay!
Once I started to be honest with myself about who I was and acknowledge the things I really needed to be happy, it became a lot easier to find the answers I was looking for in my life. I started saying no to things I didn’t want to do and started saying yes to things I did want to do, like enjoying a Law and Order SUV marathon and a box of Cornettos!
I allowed myself to take time out from my day to just sit and draw or paint. I allowed myself to sleep in or spend a little bit longer in the shower. I allowed myself to go out for breakfast more often and buy a piece of jewellery if I wanted to. These small acts were all part of nourishing who I am inside and ending the cycle of guilt for being generous toward myself, which can so often be seen as selfish by other people.
It took a while, but as I whittled out all the crap from my life and stopped doing things I didn’t want to, I began to appreciate the things I love even more. Slowly but surely, things came into focus for me and I relied on my emotions to help me gauge what I should and shouldn’t be doing. If I did something and felt tired, sad or yucky afterwards, I just wouldn’t do it again. If I did something and felt happy, energised and smiley afterwards, I’d do it again. That feeling of energised is how I would feel after spending time with one of my best friends, Claire. So, I started spending more time with Claire. It’s that simple.
Making changes to find out what you want in life doesn’t have to be dramatic. You don’t have to sell your house and move to a commune in rural Queensland to find yourself. All you have to do is prioritise yourself and be your own giving, generous and reliable best friend. As you start to build up that love within yourself, you’ll be able to pinpoint more clearly what you do and don’t like, which is just the beginning to finding your path.
If you want to go out all night and surround yourself with people and be the life of the party, then do it! If you want to stay at home or sit under a tree in the park, reading a book all day with your dog, then do that! There’s no right or wrong, the world isn’t going to end if you don’t attend a party.
The biggest change you can make in your life is to start putting yourself first by listening to what you really want. Remember, listen to your heart, not your head.