The Difficulty of Putting Myself First

Tied into last week’s post about managing my stress, this week’s extension of that is how hard, I am realizing, it is to put myself first. This journey into what makes “me,” “me” and all of the associated feelings and insights have been really exciting. It may be cold and snowy outside, but lately I feel like this little flower in the photo above. Winter feels forever long, the sun finally comes out and I’m bursting through to shine as bright as possible. Does this process look perfect? No. I’ll always have a few little petals to work on getting upright.

I love that photo from my little garden. That sunflower went through a lot to get to that point. From seed, it had to survive a dry arid climate, the ravenous chipmunks as a baby sprout, push up and get it’s growing done with all sorts of enthusiasm before the short window of the summer is over at 9,000 feet. It brings up lots of feelings for me of perseverance and what it means to grow. In addition to notes about how I’m feeling on a daily basis, I keep a photo journal of sorts and like to pull ones that speak to me for each post. I’ve taken all the photos you see on this blog, all on my iphone, and usually with a couple of dogs rearing to get moving again. So apologies if they are not perfect. Neither am I.

So this whole notion of “self care” and “putting myself first” is actually a new concept to me. Just like “stress” management comes up a lot, I’ve of course heard “self care is important” countless times. It now actually means something to me. In thinking about it, my insecurities and just being what I consider a fairly nice person have probably fed into that. Deep down on some level it never occurred to me to put myself first because I didn’t think I was worthy of it. Don’t worry, I’ve come around to the idea on a conscious level that I am, in fact, worthy of lots of things. One of the wonderful things about getting older is you start to figure out who you really are and start to deal with all of those scars, wounds, and “whys” that you have been accumulating since childhood. Fun stuff. It really is, though, because I am actually starting to figure out what I like, how to get it, and how to not feel bad about doing it.

Less of who I am and my value as a human is constructed entirely by what other people think of me. Which leads to why the “people pleaser” in me never wanted to put myself first. There is no time for that when you’re busy making others happy. It doesn’t even cross your mind. Being nice and bending to what others need has direct positive results in a lot of ways. More friends, more success at home or at work. It makes sense that this positive reinforcement would not force a different action. Add MS as a catalyst, and you’ll get some change.

In December of 2019, and I will never forget it, someone told me, “you don’t have to be everything to everyone else.” Holy fucking shit. Thank you Molly, the spiritual life coach I met with in Florida. I never realized I was doing that! PS – this lady is amazing, by the way. Even “Sage” (the nickname I was given that sums up my more hippy traits) was a little skeptical about going into a meeting with her. But my mother in law and her friend highly recommended her, and it intrigued me, so I went.

It was INCREDIBLE what she was able to intuit and how much she has had a constructive impact on my journey. All in an hour of our time! I am super grateful for her and will most definitely be seeking her guidance again in the future. Curious about what she could do for you? Check her out here: https://www.mollymaccartney.com/. I do not go to church or a therapist. But, I do believe that some sort of spirituality is just as important as eating, breathing and sleeping. Whatever that looks like to you. And life is messy. Even the good stuff. There is so much to be learned from speaking with someone who can untangle it all and reflect it back to you in a way that can help you make the best decisions along the way.

Anyhow, Molly blew my mind. In a good way. I fully believe that putting other people first is why I am good at my job. I am now working on how to still value their needs and concerns, while also establishing healthy boundaries so that I am not sacrificed in the process. There is no reason to believe that the only way to take care of others is by giving up pieces of myself.

Making time and space for myself on multiple levels is one thing. Another layer to that is doing so without feeling guilty about it. Especially in real estate there is always a little voice in your head telling you no matter what you are doing that you should be working. Letting that go has been a challenge. Setting time limits on “me time” and then committing to being fully present for myself has helped. My phone and my emails will be there when I get back. I can’t do everything all at the same time, so when I need to re-calibrate, I need to actually do it and not be thinking about the keys I need to pick up and mail to my client while pretzeling myself into pigeon pose. When it’s time to go into work mode, it’s time to get some things done and stop dreaming about getting into my pajamas when I get home. It is useless to be in that in between phase all the time, never fully present in what you are actually doing. I can genuinely care about others, and actually take care of them better if I’m starting by taking care of the base of the pyramid first, which is my health in body, mind, and spirit. I’m no good to anyone exhausted physically or emotionally.

Flare ups are quite obvious indicators I need to slow down or say “no” to a lot of activities I would normally partake in. They are physical reminders to take care of myself better. I always thought I was doing that, but I’m on a whole new level of putting myself FIRST (not just added to the mix), and also not feeling negative feelings surrounding all that. It is easy to slow down when you’re feeling bad. Your body makes you stop, whether that manifests itself as a cold or a fiery pain in your leg. It’s easier to say “no” to a day on the hill snowboarding if you’re coughing and sneezing or your legs are weaker than normal and not cooperating. But as I come out of a low period mentally and physically over the past couple of months working my way through flare ups and the effects of the steroids, plus Ocrevus infusions, it’ll be hard to keep up that prioritization of myself. I am coming into a phase where I am feeling much better and I’ll need to remember to try and PREVENT the flare ups, not just react to them. My yoga, art, and downtime with the dogs need to be sources of joy, not stress because I’m not doing something else, and need to happen before I can think about the trillion other things that need to get checked off my to do lists of day to day life.

It’s also good for me to get out and see or communicate with my friends and support system. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to feel connected to “my tribe.” My hockey community, my yogis out there, my biological family far away and my chosen families here in Summit County where a lot of us have landed as implants. As always, it comes back to balance. I just need to focus on the “me” piece of the pie a little more, because really, without the “me” piece, there is no dang pie at all.

I have a chronic disease that dictates what my body, the physical vessel that holds “me” in, is able to do. That can be quite draining on me physically and mentally. I also have a soul, just like everyone else, that is a cup that needs filling. It is all too clear to me now that my buckets drain a little faster than they used to without MS, and that I have to pay attention to them more to fill them back up. I am getting used to that. Embracing it, even. Today self care and gratitude are calling to me. I am listening and I recognize their vital importance to building and maintaining a solid foundation for my best life.

Published by Aimee Straw

Diagnosed with MS at 29, my journey toward higher heart and soul really began to unfold and flourish a few years later when I started to accept, and embrace, who I really am. There are many lessons to learn along the way and I am excited to share my story in the hopes that I can connect with and inspire others.

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