All of us have heard that unless we take care of ourselves, we cannot take care of anyone else. We hear that we must make sure we're okay first, in order to be okay for others in our lives. We might even believe we're walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
But the truth is that for some of us, this is absolutely not the case. And it should be.
There are two kinds of people in the world. The givers and the takers. And they sure do manage to find each other. The givers will naturally put everyone else first and if they'll put themselves at the bottom of the list - if, in fact, they make it to the list at all. Meanwhile, the takers are putting themselves first, so as long as someone is giving to them, and they are taking whatever they need, they're happy. It sure as hell isn't doing the givers any good though, is it...
On the surface, this might look confusing. After all, I'm talking about how we must put ourselves first. So what's wrong with the takers doing it?
The problem is that the takers are taking from others in order to do it. The problem is that the takers are needy, selfish bottom feeders who suck the very life out of the givers if they're allowed to do it, and they won't stop taking until the givers stop giving.
The problem is that the takers will manipulate the givers with emotional blackmail in order to get what they want. This means that they will make threats - veiled or blatant - about the possible consequences to their own wellbeing or happiness if the givers don't give them what they want, expecting that the givers will cave because they don't want to feel guilty or they're afraid that the takers will suffer in some way. This, my friends, is emotional abuse.
Sure, they are putting themselves first, but the givers pay the very expensive price. That is where the difference lies.
Putting yourself first should mean that you are seeing to your own needs, honouring your own feelings, healing yourself, taking care of yourself, nurturing, loving and respecting yourself. In doing so, this means that sometimes you might be asked to do things for others that you do not wish to do or you might be feeling stressed or unwell yourself, yet feel as though you 'must' do something for someone else, when all you really want to do is read a good book, have a cuppa, and go to bed early.
Putting yourself first should mean that you are strong enough to say "No" when it is the right thing for you to say, and saying it with compassion and kindness. It should also mean that you have respect for yourself. It is the only way that you can respect anyone else.
If you want to be well enough to live your own life fully, and to be able to truly help anyone else, you must take care of yourself first. And you must avoid the bottom feeders - at all costs.
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