We know that making ourselves a priority is important. But how do we know what “prioritizing you” looks like in the practical day-to-day? Here’s the approach I’m using to keep myself a top priority.
In thinking about my New Years Intentions, I keep going back to the concept and importance of prioritizing myself as a whole being. Back in October 2020, I hosted a virtual Autumn Refresh Retreat and one of the panel sessions focused on Prioritizing You. I collected women for the panel who could speak to different perspectives in life. There were single and married women, mothers of younger and older kids. Each woman had a different circumstance, and yet we all still faced challenges in prioritizing ourselves. So we discussed those challenges we as women face in doing so. We talked about how we overcome those challenges. And we also shared a few ways we choose to “self care”.
Right now in my life, I’m giving much more attention to prioritizing my own needs. This is as opposed to defaulting to the slew of other needs (perceived or potential) of the people around me. Because my habit had been giving those needs priority over my own. I’m recovering from that now. I’m clearing out, releasing, and letting go of ignoring and deprioritizing my needs and myself.
Side note: it seems this time last year I had a similar resolve to choose myself. And here I am, still learning that lesson. So here’s to taking the steps we’re prepared to take. 😀
So get to the practical side of prioritizing you looks like.
Prioritizing You Looks Like Slowing Down
What does it mean to slow down?
- The first and most obvious answer is to slow down physical movements. Avoid rushing as best you can. This automatically causes us to allow more time and focus on the particular thing we’re doing. (How’s that for intentional living?!)
- How about slowing down your speech? (Coming from a family of fast talkers, I have to be very purposeful with this one!)
- And most importantly, be slow to react. This is an amazing tactic to use with kids. I’ve been reading a book called Hunt, Gather, Parent (book review coming soon) and it’s teaching me to pause and not immediately react to my kids’ behavior. It’s so cool to watch children figure out they can solve their own problems when given the opportunity.
Which leads perfectly into the next item.
Prioritizing You Looks Like Letting People Meet Their Own Needs
If you’re an Enneagram 2 like me, you probably pride yourself in preemptively meeting the needs of other people. This proclivity is absolutely a gift. But it can be problematic if you’re always jumping in to meet someone else’s needs (both for you and them). Why?
- It’s paternalistic to assume we know what someone else needs. And to then assume they need somebody outside of themselves to provide it.
- When done to children, it’s prohibiting them from learning how to acknowledge, identify and address their needs in a way that is best for them.
- When done to adults, without giving them a chance to ask, it can feel demeaning. It’s almost like telling someone “I don’t trust your ability to meet your need in the way I think you need it met.” At best, these actions can feed into relationships of dependency. (Think about your partner, who may appreciate the things you automatically do for them. But do you really want to set that as the expectation?)
Think about where you might be swooping in to help or even “save” someone else. Acknowledge that this is a person who is either developing the skills or is already fully able meet their own needs.
Prioritizing You Looks Like Recognizing What You Need
Once you’ve begun to slow down and let others ask for what they need, you are able to turn that energy toward yourself. It’s only then that you can start to notice, identify, and meet your own needs. You start allowing the space and time to listen to what your self, your whole being, is trying to say to you. You recognize that your body, emotions, and spirit are always communicating something. They are always sending signals of what you need, how you’re feeling and doing. In our society, we are used to ignoring or pushing back the signals our bodies send. So it truly takes an act (or rather, many continuous acts) of intention to give space to those signals.
Like any language or two-way communication, it takes time and practice to learn. This is especially true since we’re not taught how communicate or nurture our relationship with ourselves. So how do you understand the signals and recognize what you need?
Acknowledge that a signal is happening.
Let yourself sit with the notion that your self has sent a signal. Something is being communicated. This could be an “off” feeling or sense of unease about a person, situation, or choice. It could be a feeling of overwhelm or exhaustion. The communication can even take the form of a symptom of pain or illness in your body. Whether the signal is brand new or has been happening “as long as you can remember”, acknowledge it.
Identify the signal.
Sometimes you can’t always put to words what is happening within you. You can only recognize that you’re experiencing it. That’s because it takes practice to identify the signals. How many times have you heard that humans often mistake the sensation of thirst for hunger? We will die in three days without water, and yet most of us still can’t accurately interpret signals of dehydration! All the more diligently will we need to work to identify signs of other needs.
Recognize what the signal means.
Being able to notice and identify your signals means that when they come, you can accurately translate what’s being communicated. And from there you can address what the corresponding need is. Again, we’re not taught how interpret our needs. What’s more, beyond the standard physiological needs, the ways in which your emotional, relational and spiritual needs are communicated are unique. So only you can know how to read and respond to them. Only you listening to your body can inform what meters are low and what’s going to fill those meters.
Prioritizing You Looks Like Communicating Your Needs
Whether you’re single and live alone, or you live with a spouse or kids, at some point you will need to communicate your needs to people around you. It’s simply the best way to make sure your needs are getting met. Here’s where you get to reap the benefit of allowing others to ask for what they need!
*NOTE: Communicating your needs is not assuming that someone else is going to swoop in and meet that need for you. 😉 It’s allowing the people in your life an opportunity to support and show their love in the way they have the capacity to do so.
For instance, I sometimes have to tell my husband, “I need a nap right now, I’m gonna go take care of that.” And then he knows that I will not be around to take care of the kids or make dinner for a little while. So that may mean he gathers the kids in the kitchen and they make a meal together. Or maybe he whisks them out of the house and comes back at dinnertime with takeout. My job is simply to provide a clear signal. How he executes on that signal is his decision.
Sometimes you’re not able to put clear words to what your need is. Maybe you simply recognize that your emotional meter is low, for instance, or that there’s something you need to process externally. So you might say to someone, “I have stuff inside that I need to get out”. You can let them know you’re not asking that they do or solve anything. You’re only asking that they be there as you talk, feel, and maybe cry. Now your person knows what the expectation is, and has an opportunity to support you in the way you need. And since not everyone is an Enneagram 2, that sort of thing only happens when you communicate.
These have all been things that I’m learning. Writing this blog and getting my thoughts down have been a way of processing for me. It’s been an amazing way of prioritizing myself in areas I haven’t addressed or attended to in a long time. And man, does it feel really good.
My hope is that as you read this, you will be inspired to find methods, techniques and activities that help in prioritizing you. That things you find will not just refresh, but replenish and revitalize the various areas that make up who you are. And that in being replenished, you can be whole, healthful, complete, full, and then you can pour out into the world in all the ways you want to from a full well.
I hope that in offering some insight into what that looks like for me, that you will be inspired and encouraged to find what the practical side of prioritizing you what that looks like.
Let me know in the comments what you do to intentionally keep yourself at the top of your priority list. I’d love to hear your methods!
Click here to watch the Prioritizing You recorded session from the Autumn Refresh Virtual Retreat.
Visit the Refresh Virtual Retreat Playlist to see all of the sessions.