You’ve probably heard this phrase for a long time, perhaps even starting in childhood or your teen years. What do those words mean to you? For me, it meant I should wear a sweater when my mother was cold, make friends my parents would approve of, and get good grades in school so I could go to college.

Not that any of these were bad, or even things I didn’t want for myself. The tricky part was figuring out what taking care of ME meant, apart from what my parents or teachers thought. Can you relate to any of this?

The next part was how that phrase applied to friends, mates, and the workplace. How much did I allow others to decide what was good for me without considering my own thoughts and needs as part of the process?

So, ask yourself: How would I describe what taking care of my self means?

Which of the following statements might apply to you?

___I need to take care of everyone else before I take care of me
___I take care of me first, and if there’s any time or energy left over, I’ll give it to others.
___I not only put myself last, I’m usually not even on the list.
___I really don’t know what taking care of myself means.

What are the messages running around in your head that cause you to put yourself at the back of the line?

What are the messages you’ve internalized that tell you to always put yourself first?

What are the consequences of your philosophy and your actions?

What would you like to be different?

What are the ways you can take care of yourself that you may not have thought of or paid attention to?

The typical ways we think of taking care of ourselves include eating right, exercising, getting enough rest, meeting personal and work responsibilities. What else can you add to that list that will ease your stress and give you better feelings about yourself and who you are as a person? These can include learning to say “no,” standing up for yourself, refusing to engage in negative talk about others, and spending less time with people who suck up your energy.

What would you add to this list?

Here’s a checklist:

___I am able to say no to someone when I need to.
___I am able to say no to someone even when they exert subtle or not so subtle pressure.
___I am able to differentiate between the relative importance of my needs vs. others.
___I give myself permission to indulge in “Me” time–whether it is a massage, a walk in nature reading a good book, “playing” with a friend or family member–something fun, even silly!
___I recognize when I’m doing too much for work, for family, for friends (defined as time or activities that create stress, anxiety, fatigue, resentment, etc.)
___I recognize when I’m neglecting important relationships
___I find ways to help and support others without it taking a toll on my health, my time for myself, or things I need to do to keep my life running smoothly.
___I’m able to express feelings to others that may be uncomfortable but will help others know and understand me better.
___I make time to listen to people I care about so I can learn more and understand them better.
___I recognize that I have needs, others have needs, and I can balance attending to both mine and others’ needs.
___Other ideas I have to improve the quality of my life:__________

Now pick one item of the list and write down what you need to do to increase your own well-being without sacrificing the well-being of those you care about.

Check out my other blogs at EmpowerYourRelationship.com or write me with your questions and/or ideas.