Today’s post is inspired by a discussion I had with Helen Tynan, the Director of People Operations for Google in Ireland, on our podcast. Helen manages the company, raises four kids, and still finds time for fitness. I feel like too many people seem to think that like they can’t put themselves first, even though they should! Why is that?
Learning to put yourself first, especially by prioritising fitness, ensures that you’re healthy and fulfilled. This in turn makes it easier for you to care for other people in your life like a spouse or partner, children, parents, or friends.
I know it’s not easy to put yourself first, especially when you have an ultra-demanding life that leaves you spent and short on time. If the amazing Helen Tynan could do it, then you can too. This blog will tell you how!
Here’s Why You Have to Put Yourself First
Putting ourselves first just doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us. We’re wives, mothers, corporate employees, business owners, caretakers, and any other job title first.
We have so many responsibilities, so many people we’re beholden to that the only time that’s left over for ourselves are those couple of minutes at the end of the day (when you’re already exhausted anyway) or a few quiet minutes first thing in the morning.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you have to learn to put yourself first. Yes, just as you learn to ride a bike or tie your shoes, this is another learned skill.
And let me tell you, learning to put yourself first will feel strange and selfish and even wrong, but that’s okay. Here’s why you need to do it.
You Can Give More Energy
Think of energy as an ice cream cone (maybe a bad analogy for a fitness blog, but bear with me). You only have so long before the ice cream cone melts, right?
When you push yourself and do too much, which so many of us are guilty of in our day-to-day lives, that ice cream cone melts. By the time you pass it on to someone else, it’s a sticky puddle and a cone.
That’s how your energy is too. If you grind yourself down to nothing and you’re running on fumes, how good of a spouse do you think you can be?
How good of a parent? How good of a friend? A son or daughter? A brother or sister? A caretaker? A community member? An employee.
It’s about so much more than burning the chicken for dinner and disappointing your family in that way. It’s all about the little things that add up.
You’re reading your child a bedtime story, and instead of them being the one to fall asleep, you pass out instead.
You promised your wife or husband a date night, but you’re on your phone too much wrapping up a work situation.
You see what I mean? You’re not giving them as much as you wish you could because you simply don’t have it to give.
When you learn to put yourself first, you’re recharging your own battery. It’s like putting the ice cream cone in the freezer before you pass it on to someone else.
You have more to give, a whole lot more than you did.
This will also benefit you at work. After all, if you barely have enough stamina for your personal life, then the same is likely true of your professional life.
You don’t want your work performance to slip. You could get passed over for the next promotion or even fired, which would just cause the mounting stresses in your life to become even more complex.
You’ll Feel Present in Your Life
It’s not only that you don’t have time for others when you fail to put yourself first, but you’re also just sort of sleepwalking through life.
You’re trying to get through on what little energy you have, and then you give what you can to those in your life until there’s nothing left.
If this goes on for long enough, then you could end up with burnout.
You might take the weekends to rest a little (if you have the time, that is), but even still, by the time the week begins, you feel like a zombie dragging yourself through.
That’s no way to live!
When you’re absent in your own life because you’re burnt out and exhausted, you’re like the passenger rather than the driver in your life.
You miss out on all the little things that make life amazing, like the sight of flowers blooming for the first time all year, the sound of laughter filling your house from your family, or the taste of your favorite homecooked meal.
You’re there for all those things physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? You aren’t. You’re still missing out. Life just sort of blurs together.
The People in Your Life Want What’s Best for You
Many of us feel like selfish monsters at the thought of taking a little bit of time for ourselves.
You worry about what those most important people in your life would think of you, right? But here’s what I want you to remember.
Learning to put yourself first is the only way you can give to others in your life in the way that you want to.
Plus, it’s not like anyone in your life who truly matters is going to begrudge you for it. These people love you, and they want what’s best for you. If that means some time away, then so be it!
Why Fitness Is the Perfect Way to Begin Putting Yourself First
When learning to put yourself first, you have to figure out what your outlet will be.
For me, Helen Tynan, and many, many other clients I’ve worked with and continue to work with, that outlet is fitness.
Perhaps fitness will be your outlet too, or maybe you’re still weighing your options.
Here are a few reasons why I think that fitness is such an optimal way to put yourself first.
You Get More Than Five Minutes Away
So many people who begin putting themselves first are afraid to really jump into the effort headfirst, so they steal away five minutes here or there.
I have to ask, who is that benefitting? Five minutes is barely enough time to help you get over anything, let alone weeks if not months of built-up burnout.
What you need is significant time and getting into fitness will give you that time. Maybe you only start by exercising for 20 or 30 minutes, but I promise that’s going to feel a lot more fulfilling than five minutes.
Once you get to the point where your fitness sessions are an hour or even two hours long, you’ll look forward to every minute of time.
You can listen to the playlist you want, focus less on your looks (since you’ll be getting all sweaty, anyway), and do the exercises you want to do.
People Will Automatically Be More Supportive
If your idea of “me” time is sitting on the couch watching Netflix with a glass of wine and a bowl of popcorn (which it is for a lot of people), it’s a little hard to garner much in the way of support for that.
On the other hand, if you tell those in your life that you need a few hours away several times per week to prioritize your fitness routine, that’s going to get you so much support.
You’ll have friends and family members telling you that they’re rooting for you, that they wish they too could become more fit.
The support is their way of telling you that yes, it’s okay to step away from some of your responsibilities for a little while and focus on fitness, even if those responsibilities bear such heavy titles as parent, spouse, adult caretaker, or business owner.
You’re Building a Healthier You!
Remember my energy analogy from earlier in this article? Well, it was more like an ice cream analogy, but I digress.
Fitness is like freezing your ice cream so you have more to give. It’s a way to restore your energy and increase your energy.
Imagine waking up in the morning already feeling energetic before you even have your morning cup of coffee. Picture having more pep in your step throughout the day.
I’m not saying that exercise is the cure for burnout. If your life is otherwise strenuous or busy, then yes, you will burn out and no fitness routine can prevent that.
Having more of that natural energy in your life will reduce the feelings of burnout though and help you keep going just a little bit longer.
Tips for Making More “You” Time
Now that you understand the value of learning to put yourself first, especially through fitness, I want to wrap up with some tips that will help you do just that!
Learn to Say No
If you’re the people-pleasing type–which I suspect you are if you’re reading this article–then of course, your first instinct is to always say yes.
Your boss asks you to do an extra project? You got it. Your friends ask you to help them move? What time do you need to be there by?
Your spouse or partner asks you to watch the kids because they have to work late? No problem, honey.
Each time you say yes to optional obligations, you’re chipping away at yourself more and more.
What you should do is look for opportunities where you can say no and then do it.
You won’t really have many of those opportunities at work, granted, so that means focusing on your personal life.
Maybe recommend your friend hire a mover and even offer them a few names, but decline to help them move.
If you have to watch the kids late tonight, then your spouse or partner should do so the next two nights to make up for it.
Saying no will be weird at first. You’ll feel like you’re disappointing people or that they’ll get angry at you.
Then you’ll realize that they’ll accept your answer, and the world will keep right on turning.
Once you discover that, saying no becomes a lot easier!
Ask for Help
So many of us feel like we need to be completely self-sufficient.
Maybe it’s because the Internet has put every answer at our fingertips, from how to change a tire to how to bake a complicated recipe or directions to your destination.
But it’s okay to ask for help. It’s admirable, even.
The Internet, as handy as it is, can’t help in the areas where it really matters, like childcare or job responsibilities.
If you need help with a big work project because the deadline is approaching and you’re overwhelmed, ask for help if that’s allowed.
Let your spouse or partner do more of the childcare at home if they’ve offered.
It can be scary to let someone else take the reins, but you can use that time to put yourself first for a little while, so it’s ultimately a win-win.
Take It Slow
Remember that rushing through life and stacking too many tasks on top of one another is a terrible way to live.
You need to take the time to slow down and smell the roses, whether that be literally or figuratively.
Sometimes, hitting the pause button on life–or at least the slow-down button–can ease a lot of your stress, as you don’t feel like life is moving towards you like a freight train!
Putting yourself first, although it can be daunting, is powerful too. It’s not easy in the beginning, but once you get that ball rolling, the forward momentum will continue to drive you.
I hope this post inspires you to pursue fitness or another means of putting yourself first! Let me know what it does for your life.