“You never put yourself first!” 

There wasn't any denying my therapist was right, and that i knew it.  My therapist's words rang within my head like a bad hangover.  

My wherewithal to prioritize my needs has require me to pay dearly throughout my life.  I paid for my lack of self-care with lost relationships, missed opportunities, and fractured professional networks. What's more, I spent most of my life short-changing myself while simultaneously paving the way in which for everyone else's success. 

Making myself a priority in my own life seems like an entirely foreign concept. Each time I prioritize my needs, Personally i think selfish, awkward, and guilty.  In the end, sitting on the sidelines and letting life pass me by is practically second nature.

However, prioritizing myself feels both liberating and empowering. The difficult part is learning how to navigate my newfound freedom, and also the process has been nerve-wracking, to say the least. As i no longer want to live in others' shadows, I also fear that I don't have enough wants and needs to fulfill.

Nonetheless, I'm learning that putting myself first does mean putting others in my life second, even though it doesn't settle well with everyone. Some friends have stayed beside me as I learn to prioritize myself; others have selected to leave. Although I didn't understand it at first, prioritizing my needs serves as a definitive litmus test of true, lasting friendships. Now, I see just how much I've allowed some to walk all over me, and I'm beginning to change that narrative.

With time, I've realized that I'm partially responsible for my habit of putting myself last. Because I didn't put myself first, I'd no reason to expect anyone else to. I merely couldn't get out of my own way. I was the embodiment of “What It Means To Teach People How To Treat You.”

Since I began putting myself first, I've learned how to tell people when they've hurt me.  I no more accept “sloppy seconds” or scraps of affection and affection.  Since I began making myself important, I learned how to walk with individuals, not behind or ahead of them. I now take up as much space as my family and friends with no longer shrink into the crowd.  Furthermore, I only participate in respectful conversations and healthy relationships and refuse to accept abusive behavior. Most significantly, though, I no longer feel guilty for caring for myself first, and I carry myself more confidently since i know that I can assert myself and set boundaries to benefit me. First and foremost, in putting myself first, I've learned to state “no.”

If you struggle to put yourself first, realize that it's never too late to take your home in the world and use your own voice.  As someone wise once said to me, “You should always play the lead role in your own life.”