In Defence Of Putting Yourself First

A few months back I wrote about how it feels to be single in your mid twenties and the age old desire that people seem to have to find out why or how that is the case. You can read more about that here. However, it really seemed to resonate with a lot of you and I got loads of interesting DM’s in response about your experiences, so today I thought I’d continue along that theme and tell you a bit more about how I’m feeling and where I’m at.

As I said in my previous post, on the whole I’m really happy with my situation. Having a boyfriend really is not the be all and end all for me – it’s much more important to me that I’m happy in my own skin and progressing with my life, irrespective of a relationship. But, lately I’ll be honest that I’ve found myself feeling a bit down in the dumps at times about not having anyone to share in my successes, and vice versa.

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I want to make it clear to any of my IRL friends and family who are reading this that it absolutely isn’t an attempt to ‘call you out’ or make you feel bad. You’re great and I love you, but this is a personal feeling that I simply don’t think you can help me get around, until I explain how I feel.

It’s really difficult to put into words, so I’m hoping that some of you reading this will understand what I mean when I say that, put simply, I do not feel like a priority to anyone at the moment – and that kinda sucks. It’s something I have been feeling a lot lately, and it can be sparked by all manner of things. From something as simple as getting a takeaway for one on a Friday night, or something bigger like having nobody to plan a Summer holiday with. Sitting and watching as everybody around you books up all the best weeks of annual leave and you’re left with the slim pickings because, ultimately, you have nobody else to prioritise your time around, makes you very aware (probably too aware!) of your situation. And, don’t get me wrong, that can also be a great feeling. The spontaneity that being single affords you is brilliant but, just sometimes, it’d be nice to have somebody else that you need to factor into the equation.

In writing that last sentence I actually think I’ve hit the nail on the head. When you’re the single one it can really feel like you’re always shoehorned into the equation, rather than having plans made specifically for you.

I’ll give you an example:

Me: “Are you free at the weekend to hang out?”

Friend: “Hmmm, well I’m seeing *insert boyfriend’s name here* on Friday and then on Saturday we have his niece’s birthday party. I could maybe spare a couple hours on Saturday night but then on Sunday morning we’ve got a big family walk so I’d need to be back in time for an early night” etc etc.

Again, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that exchange, and it isn’t that I would expect my friends to prioritise me above their relationships, of course they shouldn’t. But when everybody in your life is treating you this way, the feelings of isolation and de-prioritisation can really add up. From my perspective, this can leave you feeling like you’re always the one making all of the effort. I’ve become very aware lately of one-sided friendships and relationships, and how damaging it can be when you feel like you’re giving your all to something, only to get 50% back. Again, this isn’t a criticism of anybody in particular, because nobody owes you their 100%, but it doesn’t make it any less shit to be on the receiving end of it.

It’s obviously a fairly standard side effect of being single, but with no default person to hang out with or to make memories with, you really do have to work at making plans and carving out time to spend with those closest to you. The positive flip of this is that it means you have to work at your friendships and you really have the time available to keep them strong. However, when you’re always the one texting first and being shot down because your friends do have that default person in their life, it can leave you feeling a bit sad. Rather than ‘do you wanna do something at the weekend?’ it’d just be nice to hear ‘what shall we do at the weekend?’. I know what the wonderful Maya Angelou told us; “never make somebody a priority when all you are to them is an option”, but how do you do that when you feel like you’re just an option to everybody? 

In recent weeks, I’ve started to query why I even want to feel like a priority to someone – does that make me weak? Does that mean that I’m not truly happy in my own skin or with my own company? My conclusion is that I really don’t think it needs to be that intense. At it’s most basic, it’s a fundamental human response to want to feel like you’re important to people and that they’re putting you first. We all crave love and validation, in whatever form it comes, and to feel like somebody has put you above all else is a really pure example of that. However, you can and you should be able to get that feeling from within yourself too.

Ultimately, what I’ve come to realise is that you cannot change how other people view you, however, it’s also really naive to think that you’ll never feel lonely, no matter how cool you are with being alone. I guess the thing to do is simply to talk about it. I am probably all too often guilty of wallowing in this feeling, for fear of being a burden to the nearest and dearest in my life, but I can pretty much guarantee that as soon as I publish this they’ll all message me and ask me why I haven’t said anything about how I’ve been feeling. And, to reiterate, that wasn’t the point of this post – I didn’t want it to come across all ‘woe is me’, but rather just share where I’m at in the hopes that it perhaps makes other people feel less alone.

As cheesy as it sounds, you can very easily make yourself your own priority. Putting yourself first and making time for yourself means that you’ll always be someone’s priority. Use the time you have free to focus on what you really want; read a new book, binge watch a new series on Netflix without having to wait for your other half to be around so you can watch it together, start exercising, take up cross stitch. Whatever it is that makes you happy, prioritise that and in doing so you’re instantly prioritising yourself. It’s a classic metaphor, but we all know the ‘make sure you put your gas mask on first in the instance of a plane crash’ rule, right? That’s true here too – how can you expect to be able to look out for anybody else if you haven’t first thought about yourself?

After practising what I preach for the last couple of weeks (I’m currently on season 2 of Luther, no spoilers plz), I’ve been much less wrapped up in my feelings and I’ve come to realise that, as long as you are able to put yourself first, it really doesn’t matter as much how you perceive other people to treat you. And what does being a ‘priority’ even mean anyway? Nobody can be one person’s priority all the time, and that certainly isn’t healthy either. Of course, there will still be days when I crave companionship and wish that I had somebody around to share in life’s experiences with, but, on the whole, I’m feeling better. And at least when Friday rolls around there’ll be no one to argue with over which takeaway to go for, AND I won’t have to share the Prawn Crackers…

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1 Comment

  1. Andy
    January 28, 2019 / 7:40 pm

    Absolutely well said after being stuck and undervalued for several years I have realised that exact fact … it is important to make time for looking after yourself and treat yourself sometimes . I also agree with you re the constant push for everyone to be married have kids / boyfriend / girlfriend etc …. there is nothing wrong with being yourself and taking your time… your friends should also sometimes make time for you too …. all the really good friends will 😄 with regard to having to take to crappy leave days … put yourself first you are also allowed to go on holiday at the good times and enjoy the world whether you are single or with someone

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