One of the toughest lessons for women is realizing they can’t always make the people they love happy or comfortable. You can’t shield kids from pain or always prevent a spouse from feeling neglected. The people you love will suffer from some of your choices. Sorry superwoman, you’re not perfect and you never will be. While our imperfections seem obvious, many of us make decisions trying to prove we can do the impossible: make others happy and comfortable. All. The. Time. No wonder we feel like we’re failing.
But we try. We say yes to sex when exhausted. We watch our kid’s tenth backflip when really we just need some time alone. We take on more work projects when the boss says, ” You can handle that, right?”
We do this because it feels easier than the guilt that comes flooding in when we’re saying no to our spouse, kids, friends, or bosses.
We believe saying no reveals two things: selfishness and inadequacy.
Burying Dreams for the Sake of Others
And to make things worse, when we need support in choosing ourselves we hear unhelpful messages that encourage self-neglect and fuel guilt and shame. To mothers, we say, “They’ll only be small once.” To partners and wives, “What you won’t do, another woman will.” To friends, “Don’t be the friend who disappears once in a relationship or starts a family. I was here before, and I’ll be here after.”
So yeah, it’s a lot of fucking pressure.
We believe saying no reveals two things: selfishness and inadequacy.Arielle Davis
Pressure that makes admitting we can’t do it all too painful to admit. So we bury our dreams and desires, and choose what seems like lesser pain—neglecting health and fitness, despite exhaustion. Neglecting careers, dreams, and purposes all the while longing for more than the role of a mother. Neglecting rest and restoration, opting to endure gatherings, fake happiness, and hide the feeling of disconnection from our friends, and worse ourselves.
Seems absurd when put plainly, right? Instead of building lives that feel good, we settle for roles—an amazing mom, loyal friend, devoted wife, dedicated employee.
And maybe it’s just me, but I want my grave stone and obituary to say a little more than that.
Be honest, when you dream (if you still do), is this all you dream of? Playing a small role in someone else’s story? Never the protagonist, always a supporting character.
I haven’t met you, but I guess the real answer lives between hell no and fuck that.
Do you mean it?
Enough to risk being seen as selfish?
What about imperfect?
Can you sustain the discomfort of admitting you can’t do it all?
If so, keep reading.
How to Prioritize Yourself When You Feel Guilty
Step 1 :Figure out your BS story:
In my observations, women often tend to craft a story where they label themselves as flawed or selfish. This usually occurs when they want to prioritize their own needs. This self-constructed narrative is the very root of their guilt. It is this story that drives every decision that results in them putting their needs last.
So the first thing that we have to figure out in order to help them move forward is what bullshit story they are telling themselves every time they feel a desire to do something for their happiness.
Here are a few stories we tell ourselves:
The “I’ll Damage Our Kids” Story:
We often tell ourselves that prioritizing our dreams, desires or even our personal well-being will bring big consequences. Women worry that taking a moment for ourselves equals child neglect, and this will damage our children and our relationships with them. Rarely do we stop and think about what our self neglect teaches them about healthy relationships, boundaries and the importance of their own happiness.
| Related: 5 Areas of Personal Growth
The “I’ll Ruin Our Relationship” Story:
Similarly, we are concerned that putting our needs first might lead to conflict with our partners, potentially resulting in cheating or abandonment. We experience anxiety believing that prioritizing personal needs will prompt our partners to seek fulfillment elsewhere, perhaps through an unrealistic fantasy of a woman who we imagine to be prettier, funnier, more successful, better at sex, and more accommodating than we are. But spoiler alert: this perfect woman doesn’t exist; only in our heads.
The “They’ll Think I’m Not Committed” Story:
In addition, we fear that bosses or colleagues will interpret our choices to take personal time as a lack of commitment. We worry that using sick days, vacation time, or not putting in extra hours sends a message that we are not fully committed to our professional endeavors. So we fear that when a promotion or pay raise is discussed, we won’t get it because we didn’t work our well-being away. I’ll acknowledge that sometimes this is true, but only in a toxic work environment. In other words, it’s not worth it.
The “They’ll Think I’m Selfish” Story:
Lastly, we often fear appearing selfish, especially in our friendships. We worry our friends will think we have abandoned or forgotten them for new lovers, careers, or even children. We worry that not showing up to social gatherings will be seen as selfish, so we attend functions even when we don’t have the energy.
All of these stories ingrain the idea that putting oneself first is somehow morally questionable. This causes us to buy into the belief that placing our personal needs at the forefront is inherently wrong or indulgent and becomes a powerful force, diverting actions away from creating lives that make us happier.
Realizing that we tend to tell ourselves certain stories is really important. It’s a foundational step that sets us up for what we must do next to overcome these feelings of guilt.
Step 2: Reframe that B!tch
A good evidence-based exercise you can try is Externalizing Conversations, created by Michael White and David Epston in the 1980s. It’s not as complicated as it may sound; in fact, it’s a simple exercise that, for some, might be quite powerful. It means that when you are telling yourself the story “I am selfish for wanting __________,” you replace “I” with another name. For example, “Avery is selfish for wanting an evening to herself at the movies.”
By externalizing, you create some distance from the narrative, making it easier to examine objectively. It can help you take a step back and look at the story from a different angle and see the absurdity of your BS stories.
But I’ll warn you that depending on how deep your guilt goes, you may need extra support from a trusted friend or guide like myself who can help you keep questioning your guilt until it becomes clear that it’s not serving you. Having someone who can keep reaffirming you while you work through the uncomfortable feelings that come up when you begin unpacking your guilt can be game changing.
But let me say this, while I think a trusted friend could help immensely, you may struggle to reach out, be honest, and ask for help because you don’t want to be a burden, or worse, you may have realized recently that the friendships you built aren’t filled with supportive people. Whether you have supportive friendships or not, the next tip is super important, especially for those struggling with shame in asking for help or lacking support.
Step 3: Surround Yourself with Supportive Women:
When you begin the journey of prioritizing yourself, building a robust support system with like-minded women becomes your secret weapon. Connecting with women who genuinely champion your aspirations can ease the guilt of choosing yourself. This supportive network offers a judgment-free space for embracing your desires. In these spaces, you can share your goals and challenges with a group of supportive women. It creates a place where victories are celebrated, and challenges are faced together.
Through my courses, workshops, and coaching, I’m not just providing guidance—I’m building a community of women who believe that community accelerates progress. In these encouraging spaces, women come together to share stories, tackle obstacles, and celebrate each other’s successes.
Being surrounded by supportive women isn’t just about having a shoulder to lean on; it’s about gaining fresh perspectives and insights from those who understand your experiences. This diverse network becomes a wellspring of advice and coping strategies, enriching your toolkit for navigating the twists and turns of prioritizing your own needs.
In the community I’m creating, women aren’t just recipients of support; they’re active contributors, sharing their wisdom and experiences. This lively exchange creates a powerful synergy, with each woman’s journey contributing to the strength and resilience of the group.
Remember, embracing self-prioritization isn’t a solo mission. It’s an opportunity to connect with fellow women who appreciate the importance of personal well-being. Together, we’re forging a community where support isn’t just a concept but a vibrant reality, making the journey richer for every woman involved.
Don’t Waste Years of Your Life
I understand that this journey is challenging. What I’m asking of you isn’t easy—it requires stepping into discomfort, potentially encountering pain, and facing pushback, even from those closest to you. I emphasize this because it’s crucial to acknowledge that there are no perfect choices, only the choices we have. At times, your choice may prioritize your kids, partner, or friends, but my hope is that after today, you won’t consistently find yourself at the bottom of that list.
I want to reinforce a vital point: there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. You are inherently worthy, lovable, and acceptable just as you are. Even when you disappoint others or let them down, your worth remains intact. You are fully capable of navigating these challenges on your own, but I sincerely hope you won’t have to. Going it alone risks years of unhappiness, lost time, and unnecessary regrets in life reflection.
Even when you disappoint others or let them down, your worth remains intact.Arielle Davis
Come Join a 3-Days Workshop with Me
I can assist you in making these changes more efficiently and with fewer missteps. I’ve organized a 3-day workshop to guide you. This workshop is loaded with practical exercises and the skills that will help you to:
- Halt Self-Sabotage: Identify and overcome patterns that hold you back, from building your dream life, one that feels good.
- Rooted Happiness: Uncover and address the core issues preventing you from achieving lasting happiness.
- Navigate Emotional Spirals: Learn how to intercept downward spirals of self-hatred and replace them with self-compassion.
And I can’t stress this enough, SO MUCH MORE!
There are only 4 spots left, and I’m selective about who joins. This is not only an opportunity to connect to the power within you, but also to connect with a powerful group of women who will understand your journey, struggles, and be there to support you.
If you’re interested in expediting this process and minimizing potential regrets, click the button to explore how I can support you on this transformative journey.