Dear Shanita

Dear Shanita,

How do I stop focusing on caring about the progress and success of others and start caring about MYSELF? I am so quick to fix someone else’s resume or encourage them in their dreams, and I don’t do that for myself, nor does anyone encourage me as I do for everyone in my life. How do I treat myself like I treat others, and stop putting myself LAST?

— Putting me first

Dear Putting me first,

Before I jump in, I want to congratulate you on your readiness “to stop putting myself last.” THIS. IS. SO. BIG.

Your realization is a gamechanger—now you’re really committed to giving yourself the attention you deserve! But first, let me start by saying that I don’t think you can completely “stop” acknowledging the success of others. When you’re a compassionate and caring person, you can’t help but root for those around you. It’s probably why people are so drawn to you for support (and it doesn’t hurt to get a little high from giving back). Nevertheless, when everyone else’s dreams come before yours, then that’s when you gotta hit the brakes and pull over.

[Read Related: ‘Dear Shanita’: Brown Girl Magazine’s Self-Care Advice Column]

So what exactly do you dream of, Putting me first? What do those aspirations and desires look like? Have you taken any time to imagine what’s in your heart? Have you ever written those dreams down? If you’re not clear on what you’re working towards, it can be hard to shift the focus back to you (and keep it that way). So here’s where I suggest you start:

  • Book 60 minutes (preferably this week) to dream and write.  
  • Find a comfortable space where you can “just be” and turn off any electronic distractions.
  • Write down the dreams you dream of deep down inside. Don’t worry about the structure. Just get it all down on paper. Also, don’t hesitate to play some music, grab colored pencils to draw, light incense, and enlist anything else that will help you lean in.
  • When you’re done, pause and reflect. What emerged?

Once you start to see your dreams unfold, you won’t wanna stop. Book more time for yourself the following week, and rinse and repeat as often as you can. As you take more time to you lay it all out, you’ll feel even more motivated to take action on your wants.

[Read Related: If Your to do List is Becoming a Source of Stress Then its Time for Some Self-Care]

As for encouragement, it can feel incredibly lonely when you don’t have a support squad. However, you do have YOU. You are your most valuable resource, so be your own cheerleader. Start by inspiring yourself with daily written/verbal affirmations like “I WILL PUT MYSELF FIRST EVERYDAY GOING FORWARD.” Also, empowering quotes and memes are great (there are lots of apps out there for this). It is your birthright to give yourself the attention you deserve, so go ahead and honor it!  

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