Last year I signed up for an eight-week Strong(wo)man course at the gym, during which I was introduced to many…
I put myself first. On my to-do list. On my priority list. In my life.
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We laugh about the idea of “self-care,” or struggle to “make it happen on occasion” utilizing that language to help ourselves justify creating time for our own enrichment. We put ourselves last in line, if we put ourselves there at all, and at every turn this is affirmed for us. As though giving ourselves to everyone else at all times is the only option, or at least the only one that is valuable.
We are here to serve others, the narrative goes, and never ourselves.
Not only do I find this narrative limiting, I believe it is dangerous. We work ourselves to complete exhaustion, many of us ending our days completely drained, emotionally and physically, by other people’s needs. Telling ourselves that maybe tomorrow is the day we’ll spare a moment to treat ourselves to a short walk or some time alone, instead using caffeine as the sole “pick-me-up” to get through another day or act of service.
This is a particularly powerful pull on mothers, as your children are to be your top priority at all times. We derive our value and our identity from that story. Our hearts tug us there in every waking hour.
I remember telling myself I wouldn’t be “that kind of Mom.” That the guilt of autonomy wouldn’t affect me. But somehow a mound of guilt sidled itself right up on my shoulders in the delivery room, like an unfortunate gift with purchase to which I didn’t agree.
I felt like a jerk each time I dropped my kid off with a sitter “just” so I could be alone. I felt like a horrible person if she cried when I walked out of the gym’s childcare area. I even felt bad putting her in her crib so I could pee alone.
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But all of that changed for me with one monumental shift in my thinking. On one such drop off, as I walked away from my child and toward myself I wondered what I was teaching her. Something I am constantly asking myself about my own behavior with regard to her. For a second I sat with that irrational feeling that perhaps I was teaching her that she didn’t matter to me. Which makes no sense as such an enormous amount of my time and energy is invested in my child. And then it struck me.
I was teaching my child that I mattered in my own life. And by my own example, I was also teaching her that she would always matter in hers.
I put myself first because I know myself well. Like most women I know, I will drop everything if I’m really needed. I will fit things into my day that I hadn’t planned for, just to make someone else’s life more convenient. I will never really abandon my child or anyone in my life, nor will I get to the end of the day and decide that I can’t handle the basic needs I tend to be responsible for in my family. I will always pull myself together to show up for others. It’s as much who I was trained to be as it is who I am. So I come first. Everyday. I put myself on the top of the list so that I am taken care of.
Some days that looks like making sure my space feels clean and spacious. Most days that includes movement. Often it’s coveted time alone.
I don’t think of this time as a chore, a necessary evil to keep me running like a well-oiled machine, or a luxury I have to earn. It is the most basic way I can communicate to myself and to the world that I know I’m valuable. I deserve it simply because I’m a person worthy of great care. And it comes first, before the needs of others even begin to arrive at my door. I like to call it “queen shit.” The luxurious care I give myself.
The amazing bonus is that my daughter is watching. She watches my every move. She knows she is loved, and she knows I am loved by me. She knows she is cared for and that she deserves her own care. I won’t always be here to take care of her, but I hope by my example she will learn to always provide herself with care.
It’s a simple but profound shift in thinking, and you don’t have to have a child to be teaching. We are always teaching. All of us. Just as the women around me unconsciously compete to be the busiest and affirm martyrdom, one woman’s care for herself gives permission to all the women around her.
The narrative that we don’t matter in our own lives is tired and slowly leaving us shells of the whole people we deserve to be. That doesn’t mean that you can’t take care of others, if that is a part of your life and identity. It means that it’s time to put yourself on your list. And if I may be so bold to assert, you belong at the top of it. Not because it will make you of better service to others, but because you deserve great care.
From the time we’re little girls, we’re not only taught that our looks determine our worth, we’re constantly reminded that no matter how hard we try (at anything), we’re never quite good enough.
It’s no wonder we struggle to feel confident in so many areas of our lives—our bodies, our relationships, our intelligence, our contributions to the world. It’s frustrating and stifling to feel like your voice doesn’t matter, like you don’t measure up to arbitrary and ever-changing standards, or like everyone else’s preferences and needs come before yours.
What if you could feel confident in every way? What if, instead of wondering how it would feel to be good, worthy, and deserving enough… you already knew? What if you truly believed that losing a few more pounds or squeezing into a smaller size dress had nothing to do with how amazing, powerful, and valuable you are?
At Girls Gone Strong, we want to help you show up fully and authentically in your life. That’s why we’ve worked with GGS Advisory Board Member Erin Brown to create Showing All The Way Up: A Guide To Confidence with Erin Brown—and we’re so excited to share with you!