By Andrea E. Parsons, MSW, LCSW
Too often, women in today's world find ourselves stretched thin, putting the needs of others above our own. But what many don't realize is that doing so can harm our ability to prosper. Attending to our needs and wants is a form of self-nurturance.
Nurturance is literally essential for survival. In its absence, humans fail to thrive.
Women must come to believe that our needs and wants matter and are as important as anyone else's. We are not an afterthought; you are not an afterthought.
Whenever we ignore ourselves in this way, we are subconsciously telling ourselves that we matter less than others. Over time, this chips away at our self-worth and increases our feelings of resentment.
Eventually, we emotionally withdraw from others or avoid them all together, which strains relationships. This can also increase our likelihood of becoming depressed.
One way to know this is happening to an unhealthy extent is to recognize whether we are keeping score of what we've done for our partner, children, parents, employer or others and what they've done for us. The moment you notice that you're adding up the amount of "me" time your spouse has recently had or mumbling to yourself that you're not the only one who can stack the dishwasher, please stop and ask yourself, "What is my unmet need or want?" Keeping score begins when we are ignoring a need or want.
So, to stop keeping score, we must voice our needs and wants. It's OK if you feel scared doing so. We can feel scared AND act. Fear tells us to avoid something, but action is how we overcome it. Start with something small and build from there. Any act of showing up for yourself will begin to restore your sense of self, and along with it, your confidence.
Sometimes, we've become so accustomed to attending to everyone else that we cannot name our needs and wants. If this resonates with you, one way to reconnect to yourself is to ask yourself if your decision is healthy or unhealthy for you. This would be a shift from thinking in terms of right or wrong, good or bad, should or shouldn't. The latter ways of thinking have an element of judgment and leave room for lots of rationalizing. However, we can typically quickly conclude whether we think an action is healthy versus unhealthy for us.
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The more your actions reflect what is healthiest for you, the more you are telling yourself that you matter. This is a gift you can give yourself. It is also a gift to your loved ones because you're going to be emotionally and physically healthier. You deserve that—you really do.
Andrea E. Parsons, MSW, LCSW is a therapist, wife and mom trying her best to balance work and life so she can enjoy all the beauty that life in Northern California has to offer her.