I think for a lot of women, it’s hard to put ourselves first. I know my Mom has said this especially happens after you become a wife or a mother; your needs are pushed to the wayside by the appearance (intrusion? Inclusion?) of another. I see it in my single friends, though, and I see it in myself. It’s not necessarily a lack of self-esteem, I’d instead say that it’s an inherent behavior somehow tied to our biological history of being a caregiver by nature. And so when it comes time to do so, it’s HARD. It’s also necessary, but it is HARD.
Recently I had to make some decisions where I chose to cut some people out of my life. In one particular instance, I didn’t really give him a reason except for a few things that I alluded to here on the website. I cared about this person for a long, long time and this person, over the course of four years, continued to hurt me, sometimes knowingly; other times, innocently. Regardless, after all of this time, one day it clicked…I was feeling the same things over and over again and I JUST COULDN’T DO IT ANYMORE. When we had dated, he never put me first; later on, even as a close friend, I experienced him doing it again and putting his own feelings before my own. Always. I didn’t really give him an explanation at the time, I just did what I had to do which was cut him out of my life. There was a overwhelming sense of both relief and sadness in the decision; at times, I’ve thought about giving him an explanation in person but I’m afraid it will start up all over again and that can’t happen.
I’ve seen this, though, again even in my interactions with people as of late. I’ve been so worried about doing the right thing or saying the right thing that I’ve internalized all that I’ve needed to do, needed to say, even to the point that I begin convincing myself that my needs really WEREN’T my needs. I see this in relationships with my friends, my coworkers, my parents, even people that I’m dating. I’m so reticent to express just what it is that I need out of the relationship that I remain silent and therefore always remain disappointed. And at some point, you have to just not care anymore. Saving face means nothing if you know that by doing so you’re in a sense invalidating everything that you stand for, altering the definition of what you will and won’t accept. The line keeps getting further and further away from where it started; your tolerance for unacceptable behavior continues to expand. And then one day, you see yourself in a place so far away from where you started, so far away from who you are and what you stand for that you realize there’s no other decision than to put yourself first, whatever that takes. Because if you don’t, who knows where you’ll end up?
It’s hard. It’s confusing to the others involved, this change in behavior; they look at it as if you’re reacting to something immediate ("Did I not call last night?") when it’s much, much more than that. It’s the culmination of the experiences – of the four years, the sixteen months, the three weeks, or whatever the timeframe – where you’ve held silent. To them, it’s coming out of the blue; to you, it’s been threatening to overtake you on every occasion, leaving you precariously perched on the edge of somewhere you never would have been should you have just discussed it at the time. Call it passive-aggressive, call it unsure in your life, call it what you will. But call it realizing who you are all over again and finally asking for what you deserve, and not settling for one thing less.
Call it me, today.