THE BLOG

Do Women Get Better At Putting Themselves First As They Age?

01/09/2017 12:21 BST | Updated 01/09/2017 12:21 BST

I have been feeling quite selfish of late.

For the first time in my life I am actively concentrating on myself - and it is a rather curious, no - liberating, feeling, as I have always been, above all, a people pleaser.

From childhood, I would keep quiet to make others' lives easier and quickly assess what the majority wanted or needed. I was able to quieten my inner voice - the one that reminded me of my dreams, and what I wanted for myself.

But perhaps, at times, I took this a little too far, for instance when I went to university to read physics to make my parents happy.

As I read this back - I still don't know how I let this happen. My creative path was so clear in my head. I had wanted to go to music college since I was 12.

My mother and I did argue about this, but in the battle of wills, I let my mother win. It was so important to her that I read a science at university I didn't think about the consequences on my life journey.

I wouldn't describe myself as a pushover. I knew that if I really wanted something, I would get there eventually, but I was so well practised at putting others' needs before my own it seemed self centred to do it the other way around.

People pleasing, in my opinion, is a predominantly female trait. And there is great joy in giving, fixing and putting people's wishes before your own. So I am not saying it is a bad quality, but it does require monitoring and balance.

In some ways, I feel, it has become part of the definition of a woman. And is, in my experience, exacerbated if you become a mother. Show me a mother who hasn't swapped her food choice with her child because they didn't like what they ordered in a restaurant. To clarify I only did this when my kids were small - now they are adults they can live with their choices!

And I have lost count of the number of times I have not voiced an opinion for the good of the family, whether it be family gatherings or holiday destinations. Often it is easier to have one less voice in the mix. To my mind, if everyone else enjoys where we are going that's fine by me. After all, my view is if I won't have to cook or clean, wherever we go is going to be a huge treat.

I am not saying that men don't like to people please, they do, but in my experience, men are much better at putting themselves first. And whilst I used to be quite scathing of this when was younger, I actually feel it carries a lot of merit.

I suppose the problem arises when you people please to your own detriment as this can lead to resentment or unrealistic expectations and pulling yourself back from that boundary is a hard one.

This is where age helps. Now I'm in my forties, I am re-evaluating a lot of things in my life.

My youngest child left school this summer and the landscape of my weekly routine is changing.

I think over the years I have grown weary of being all things to everyone and I am certainly less wrapped up in what people think of me than ever before. This is without doubt a positive product of age.

I feel you just get to a point in life when you think - enough.

I am consciously behaving and acting, as I want to, not as feel I ought to. I am tuning into what I want. It doesn't mean I have stopped doing everything I do; I'm just giving greater weight to my wants first. And even saying "no" sometimes, something that is very hard for a serial people pleaser.

The difficulty in changing such ingrained behaviour later in life is people think something is wrong, or you are going through a mid life crisis. I'm not - I'm just listening to my inner voice and it is empowering.

Life now, is not about how much I can achieve - it is a pursuit of quality, nourishment and joy. Part of that is still wanting and enjoying making other people happy but I am consciously keeping myself at the top of the pile and whilst this is alien to me and I might ruffle a few feathers - it's thrilling.