Check Your Vibes: 10 Ways To Prioritize Yourself In A Needy World

All day long, women receive both spoken and unspoken signals prompting us to give up some or all of our own comfort for the happiness of others, because apparently, not doing so would be plain selfish. If our friends, partner, boss, or random acquaintance from knitting club is feeling a little needy, our job, we’re told, is to drop everything to see them through it, even if they never provide that same support in kind when we need it. Helping people is great, but it sucks when it’s at the expense of your own sanity and fueled by societal guilt. I’m all about saying “yes” to life, but this icky cultural mentality can trap us in a cycle of saying “yes” to things we have no time or emotional capacity to handle.

Staying out at the bar until 3 a.m. on a work night because that one narcissistic “friend” of yours really needs to retell the tale of her latest drama? Sure. Ditching some much-needed couch time on your one free night of the week to go to a last-minute book club meeting because you feel guilty, even though you kind of hate the club to begin with? Okay. I guess it was sort of lazy of me to want to just lay down for a while anyway. Missing quality time with your BFF to stay late at work finishing some stupid spreadsheet because you have to keep up with your office frenemy? Sigh, guess so. Who wants to be a spectator in their own life, spending every waking moment attending to obligations you never wanted a part in or picking up the pieces of friends’ messes?

On top of all this, of course, is an avalanche of rhetoric in glossy magazines and books telling women to put it all on hold for some “me time” and to indulge in a bubble bath after a business meeting because “you deserve it.” Look, friends, of course you deserve a nice bubble bath, and you definitely deserve a break from putting everyone else first. But it’s incredibly draining to be overloaded with messages telling you to blend into the background for the sake of everyone else’s happiness and then be told about 10 seconds later what a failure you are for not finding a way to prioritize yourself.

Even if you’re great at resisting the guilt spiral, everyday obligations like work and errands can still keep you moving a mile a minute with little time for yourself. While you’re busy trying to keep up, try to incorporate some of these small tricks to get into the habit of advocating for yourself without even realizing it. That way, the next time you find yourself stuck doing something you hate, taking care of your own needs will be at least a little bit on autopilot.

1. Only go to events or activities you can afford. It’s one thing to go see your roommate’s terrible band perform at a bar when you’d rather be doing anything else because you feel obligated, but it’s quite another when you shell out cash you’d been saving for something important on a hefty cover charge and overpriced drinks.

2. Know when to take feedback into account and when to ignore it. Over time, you’ll be able to tell the difference between moments when constructive advice could be a big help to you, and when you’ve already made a firm gut decision for yourself that you know you need to stick to for your own sanity. When it comes to the latter, staying in your own lane is the best thing you can do for yourself.

3. When you get home from work, take a 10-minute break to just sit before starting on anything else or heading back out the door. Seriously, it’ll be rejuvenating.

4. Know your own early signs of unhappiness. If you fall into regular funks or don’t handle certain types of stress well, keep track of what that looks like when it’s just starting to creep in, so you can begin to notice it early enough to clear your schedule or go easy on yourself.

5. Keep learning. If you’re going to say “yes” to anything out of obligation, it should be opportunities that allow you to learn new things, stay mentally stimulated or better understand other walks of life.

6. Develop a go-to way to say “no.” It can be something as simple as “sorry, I can’t right now,” or more explanatory, like “I’m going to have to pass because I’d only want to do the best job possible, and I don’t have the space in my schedule right now to give you my all.” From now on, every time you’re cornered or being guilted into something you can’t or don’t want to do, you’ve got a pre-set response.

7. Keep healthy, easy snacks in your kitchen at all times. You’re a busy lady. There’s not always time to whip up a healthy meal out of nowhere.

8. Allow yourself the occasional overpriced treat. I am so over being told that my occasional penchant for four-dollar Starbucks drinks is singlehandedly ruining my finances and self-control. Every now and then, just get the damn treat and enjoy every second of it.

9. Give yourself permission to take mental health days. Sometimes, that’s the only way to get your mojo back.

10. When everything feels hopeless and you’re stuck in a misery tide that seems like it will never end, just go to bed. Stop trying to reason with yourself and just call it a day. Trust.