Dear Women: Start Putting Yourself First
I've been thinking a lot about my relationships recently. How they've affected my career, my business, my health, and my self-esteem. There are so many women who can relate to this because we tend to put others first instead of allowing for ourselves to be given any consideration. Why do we put others needs before our own so willingly, and so often? Some of my past relationships and the habits that I formed to suppress my own needs, opinions, or desires definitely began to affect how I behaved with my friends, my family, my colleagues, and even in my own mind.
I can recall a time that I looked in the mirror and didn't even recognize myself because I'd been allowing for other people to have power and control over my thoughts. I began to believe all of the negative things they would tell me, look for all of the reasons to prove that they were right, and nearly gave up on my own personal dreams because I just felt like they weren't important enough. They weren't as important as the person I was trying to impress or win over in my personal and professional life. I became obsessed with putting others first, proving them wrong if they doubted me, and I lost years of my own happiness that I can't ever get back. My hope is that now, I can take all of these things and use the experiences as a reminder that will push me to seek happiness in everything for the rest of my life, authentically be myself, feel no shame in being who I am, believing what I want to believe, and living life in ways that make ME happy.
Being too giving in relationships.
I remember the first time I had that slap-in-the-face moment. I didn't even recognize myself while looking in the mirror. I was dating someone who had a lot of personal battles and struggles with addiction. I would often find myself waking up alone in the middle of the night only to realize that 'my man' had ran off to feed his drug addiction. There were many nights I would be up, early into the morning, calling friends or even going to look for him so that I knew he was OK, that he wasn't in jail, or that he didn't OD at some after-hours spot. The moment when I knew I had to begin putting myself first was when I said to him, "if you're going to run off and do these things, just don't leave without telling me and at least let me go with you."
I was willing to sacrifice my beauty sleep for the sake of this man's life. Who was I? When did I allow for myself to be put second in a relationship that I put effort into?
This was a result of so many trust issues that I developed as an adolescent and I now realize that many of my relationships suffered as a result of me not ever putting myself first. If I wasn't OK with something, I didn't express it. If I disagreed with the man I was with, I didn't express it. If he made me feel unloved or taken advantage of, I didn't express it. I didn't want to 'rock the boat' or create even more tension in the relationship. I just wanted everything to be perfect.
How many women do you know who are 'dating' a guy, but in all honesty, she's just the girl he sleeps with, talks to on his terms, and doesn't ever take her out on a proper date? We can see from the outside that she has been bang-zoned. She's living in a dream world that sadly will come crashing down when she wakes up. As Kitten Holiday shares in her article, "If you are having sex with a guy and he isn’t interested in investing his emotions, his time or his loyalty, you are in the bang-zone. You are just a bang, just a notch, just someone to kill time with, get his rocks off with until he finds someone who can really keep his attention. Accommodating, compliant girls are the best kind of girls for the bang-zone. You may think you are the unicorn because you are doing everything you can to be compatible. But you aren’t – you’re being compliant. Compatible isn’t “the same” and compatible doesn’t come without conflicts."
You know that she can do better, but for some reason she is allowing for it to happen. All you can do is wait for her to reach that moment where she no longer has patience, and realizes that she does deserve more. Keep it real with her, and feel free to share this article if you think she needs it. It's time for her to move on.
Being a people pleaser.
If you've ever read the book 'Why Men Love Bitches' by Sherry Argov, you know that a strong woman is much more desirable than a "yes woman" who routinely sacrifices herself. So many women claim to be strong and independent, but are the first to allow a man they want to treat them as though they're a replaceable doormat that can be walked on and thrown to the curb whenever something better comes along. There are too many women who are in "situationships", aka the bang-zone, with men who have no intention of ever being in a relationship that will lead to marriage.
Moment of Truth: You deserve someone who values you as much as you value them. The good news is that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your personal happiness and live life in misery.
These "yes women" are not who men want and are they are allowing for their insecurities to control them, rather than to flip the script and realize that being completely authentic and true to yourself will attract the right person that you should be with. If you are or have been this person, I'm sure it stings to have this realization, but I can assure you that you're more deserving of a true relationship than you give yourself credit for. He doesn't need to validate anything for you, and you know that you deserve someone who will treat you better.
This also applies to friendships. If you have a friend that you're constantly accommodating, yet you've noticed they rarely do the same- you are in a one-sided friendship that either needs to change or come to a pause. Part of taking immense care of ourselves means that you must do things that bring you joy, that add value to you; so that in return, you're able to add value and pour into others. We've all heard the term that you can't pour from an empty cup. It's true. If you're constantly pouring into others, they should also be willing to do the same. Our friendships take effort as well, and we should never take them for granted.
Being 'too nice' at work.
I hate to touch on this topic because there are times in the past that people thought I was being a b*tch at work, so I worked on being more warm and polite. Now, there are articles out there saying that being too nice can be problematic. So which is it? Is there even a balance? Let's talk about that.
We know that gender bias is real. As Herminia Ibarra, Robin J. Ely, and Deborah M. Kolb write in their article for Harvard Business Review, "Without an understanding of second-generation bias, people are left with stereotypes to explain why women as a group have failed to achieve parity with men: If they can’t reach the top, it is because they “don’t ask,” are “too nice,” or simply “opt out.” These messages tell women who have managed to succeed that they are exceptions and women who have experienced setbacks that it is their own fault for failing to be sufficiently aggressive or committed to the job." There are many ways that women are beginning to deal with these issues, but the first is to get our mindset in check.
If we know that there are allowed to be who we are and that our intentions are well, we shouldn't have to feel the need to be 'aggressive' to show commitment to our job. The commitment to the job comes from our impact and our results. I do feel that there is a fine line between being 'too nice', which can come across as 'fake' in some situations, and that being a complete b*tch isn't the answer either. Regardless of gender, we should all be respectful to be respected, treat others as we wish to be treated, and provide others with the same opportunities regardless of gender, race, or culture. The sad news is that we still have a long way to go, but the good news is that women do not have to stop being kind in order to rise up in their organizations.
Moment of Truth: Until we get our head into the right space, undeniably believe that we are worth more, and are willing to prove that we have a lot to offer; we aren't ready for a seat at the table.
Brian DeHoff stated in his article for Thrive Global that "kindness has real benefits in any professional setting... Being kind allows you to stay in control and maintain perspective. Being nice is just the opposite. Being nice means you can fake your way through your interactions with teammates...When you care enough to tell the truth and show kindness when doing so — even when it is uncomfortable — you will find opportunities for real growth." Kindness is the key here. Women who can remain kind, while being assertive, will not be mistaken for being the 'nice' pushover. As Brian says, "Approach issues with honesty and kindness. These constructive conversations will help you build strong relationships. People may not think of you as “nice,” but they will think of you as a trusted colleague and leader."
Not being kind enough to yourself.
We are our own worst enemies when it comes to our limiting beliefs and the things that we say to ourselves. I've found that it's easier to talk myself out of something because then, I can continue doing life the same way, not pushing myself to the next phase, and remaining comfortable. Change and growth are desired by so many people, but few are truly willing to do the work. We may have goals to be skinnier, healthier, smarter, richer, etc.; however when it comes down to implementing the changes that will allow for us to lose the weight, get healthier, form new habits, save more money, etc. we crack. We then begin to tell ourselves things like "I could never look like her... I could never travel to that place... I could never afford those things... I could never understand that..." those are all defense mechanisms to talk ourselves into be OK with remaining where we are. I've been there and I know its real. I've literally said these things to myself. I love the tips that Christine Arylo shares in her article, including finding evidence of how much you've done and how awesome you are. Talking down to ourselves is easy because we know we can do better. So, do it! I tend to get a lot of things done, then make the mistake of ignoring how much hard work and effort I've actually put in to get there. If you take a look at where you are today compared to where you were just 5 years ago, I'm sure that there are many things you can look back and be proud of. Today, you are wiser, smarter, stronger, and you're still standing. That's all because you were able to get through all of the challenges that came your way. What makes you think you can't get through whatever is happening now? When you stop and put a plan together instead of self-sabotaging, you'll see that you can do SO much more. I encourage you to start now. Take just 5 minutes to sit quietly with yourself and write out 5-10 things that you can look back over the last 5 years and be proud of. Then give yourself permission to celebrate that, and pour up a glass or two of the best wine you've ever had. Cheers to you!
Brittanni Below, MBA is a coach, speaker, and trainer based in Houston, TX that provides services to help fierce and self-driven women to live a more balanced, healthy, and more fulfilling life. By fully understanding your unique talents and gifts and what is distracting you from being successful, Brittanni helps you transform fear, lack of confidence, and life challenges, into lessons that push you to crush the goals that you've set for yourself. If you're interested in business or career coaching, book your FREE coaching session with Brittanni here.