Oddly enough, we've been taught putting yourself first is selfish. We've been conditioned to believe focusing on "doing you" means you're failing at other things.
So, almost three months into my first adult job, I thought I would have to give up my early morning runs... which were the key to my sanity. I kept getting 7:30 am meetings with my team in Asia.
One day, I put my big girl pants on and made a suggestion to my team. “Couldn't we alternate our meetings between my morning and yours?” I asked, secretly wondering if I'd just killed my career.
But my suggestion ended up doing the entire team good. It turns out, not everyone on the team enjoyed staying in the office to talk to me until 10 pm. And I didn't really enjoy giving up my morning ritual.
This small conflict was my first, stark choice between me and them. Very early on in my adult life, I realized I need to "do me" when I can... which means those small wins are so much sweeter.
It's hard to put yourself first when there are so many other demands on your time. It doesn't matter whether it's work or FOMO : How do you actually find the time to do something for you?
But there's a way. I gave a little thought to the habits I've created in order to help me put myself first. And I'm not ashamed to say these little habits have made me a happier human:
1. Develop your little rituals.
Are morning runs your thing? A five-minute evening meditation? A long, solo Saturday coffee and book session?
Whatever your thing is, pencil it into your schedule. When you're a big working adult, it's hard enough to even find time to do your grocery shopping ... let alone things for you.
Make time for it. And then, make it a habit.
For me, Tuesday evenings are devoted to my favorite gym class. (Equinox is a cult.)
But I seriously have to put a recurring meeting request on my calendar. I have literally scheduled a date with myself to work out.
It works. I treat it like a legitimate meeting I can't change. And as a result, I've rarely missed a class.
It's easy to loosen commitments to yourself when they're not set in stone.
2. Practice saying "no."
This is the opposite of everything I'd ever normally recommend. I'm all about saying "yes" to everything all the time.
But in order to "do you," you have to say "no" sometimes.
That means saying "no" to your boss when you have too much shit on your plate. It means saying "no" when your boyfriend wants to go out on a Friday night, but you feel like being a grandma.
I mean, wine is always better on your couch, my friends.
And it means saying "no" when you really want to go to that gym class, but your friend asks you to go to happy hour instead.
Saying "no" can be hard when the other side looks enticing, or even scary. So, it helps to practice saying "no" in small ways.
And like I did with my 7:30 am switch up, it's much easier when you propose a solution instead of a flat out "no."
You can say to happy hour friend, “I already signed up for a gym class tonight. But maybe Thursday?”
It's that simple.
Try it the next time you have "me" plans, but something else gets in the way.
3. Stand your ground.
But what happens when happy hour friend needs a drink pronto?
Listen, I get it : Protecting your time isn't always that simple. Friends nag, bosses seem scary and boyfriends are just… boyfriends.
Well, of course, there are going to be times when no matter how hard you try, your "no" will fall on deaf ears. Being an adult is (sadly) not always as fun as we want it to be.
But if you assess the situation – your friend is not dying, your boss is not breathing fire – and find it's appropriate for you to push back, do it.
You deserve this. You are strong enough.
Sometimes, it's easy to avoid drama by sacrificing your needs and giving in to others. But keep track of those times when you do things you really don't want to do.
Write down the times you get staffed on a project you didn't think was up your alley or skipped spin class for drinks... even if you got charged for that late cancellation. ( I've been there).
Assess how many times you put other people's needs before yours.
From there, push yourself to say "NO." Create those little rituals and stick to them. It only takes 30 days to create a habit.
Love yourself some more. It can't hurt... In fact, it will only make you happier.