Posted on Nov 16, 2022

"If you don't put yourself first, you are letting the world know you can wait—and you will wait, because each time you put someone else's happiness before your own, you drop yourself down a place until you are last." – Oliver Myers

Everyone Will Leave Me If I Choose Me First

You know this moment.

We all do.

You know your plate is completely full, you’re tired beyond means, and you understand mentally that you can’t continue living the way you are.

You’re on the spot to set a boundary and say no. You think you’re ready to offer up your “no.” Every part of your being is burning to speak up…and you physically can’t do it. 

You’d rather move to Bali and never come back than push that word out of your mouth. Your throat closes, your stomach knots up, you clench everything, and then hear yourself say “yes, okay, sure, I can do that,” even though you Can't. Possibly. Handle. One. More. Thing. 

I HEAR you and you are not alone.

I’ve been there. This is your deeply engrained pattern at work protecting you from fear—of abandonment. Of isolation. (And it’s SO very human.) Staying quiet is your go-to way out of rejection, abandonment, and judgment. 

Today I want to talk about why it is so challenging to override this common belief and how you can free your mind and body from the dread of speaking up. 

Why is it SO hard to speak up? 

At the beginning of my self-worth transformation, it didn’t feel worth it to choose me–I felt pained at the thought of inconveniencing and offending the people I love. It didn’t help that I always felt a lingering sense of regret and weakness about not being able to handle All The Things. 

If there’s one thing I want you to get out of this article, it is this:  Your gaps of silence and the words stuck in your throat are not about YOU (and it means nothing about who you are)

Millennia of conditioning have told us that we need to put the needs of others before our own. (AKA: you're not crazy, it is a real thing.) And yet, our bodies rebel when we take on too much–and they let us know in VERY certain terms about our limits.

So what actually happens in our body when we’re about to stand up for ourselves?

Say your boss raised their voice at you and it reminds you of how your older brother dismissed you growing up.

In a split second, you go through a biological hijack. It's as if you are time traveling back to the time of the original wounding. 

Your Amygdala (the brain’s fear center) lights up and your nervous system reacts in Fight, Freeze, Flight, or Shutdown mode.

Your Hippocampus (the part of our brain that distinguishes past events from current reality) isn’t functioning and your Prefrontal Cortex (the area responsible for our logic) cannot convince you that this is your well-meaning boss, not your older brother.

No matter how much we tell ourselves there’s no need to react, a subtle trauma trigger like that loud boss can send us straight into freeze mode. It feels like you don't have control over your reaction.  And that reaction doesn't seem to match the actual situation you are reacting to.

The good news is, we can heal then rewire our trauma-based reactions and be in control of our nervous system and body’s behaviors with practice and consistency. 

Start with some ways to say "no" while staying grounded in your body

Putting yourself first feels weird and impossible at first. Moments before you make a decision that’s right for you (and ONLY you), your stomach will drop the first few (hundred) times.  

But, know that it IS possible to not have to “gulp” every time you’re ready to say “no.” You must build your stamina for staying in that discomfort until it feels, well, comfortable. Or at least tolerable. Try these tips to set you on the path of a firm, confident, kind, “No.” 

    1. Prime yourself and a few close friends–Let those you trust hold you accountable and help remind you of the long-term benefits of choosing yourself. You can ask them to be a sounding board for you to practice some hard responses, so once it’s the real deal, you feel less pressure.
    2. Ask yourself: what is the worst that will happen?–As humans, we are wired to think about the worst scenario. Aaaaand most of the time, it doesn't come true. If you ease yourself into what would happen if people left, challenged you, or were upset with you, you might see that your world won’t stop and you will just keep going.
    3. Jot down a list of events and triggers that usually make you react–I encourage you to get really specific here. Think about events in the last week that got you fired up, and break down what specifically made you freeze. The silence in the room after an argument? A look on your partner’s face? Discovering your triggers can make them more manageable when they inevitably come up again.
      • And explore what these triggering situations remind you of from your past.
    4. Become aware of your specific patterns of responses (so you can predict, observe and undo)-- Ask yourself these questions after you find yourself freezing up. Where in your body do you feel fear, dread, or panic? Do you feel tightness in your throat or nerves in your stomach? Maybe you sense some mind-body separation? Do you want to run? Hit something? Crawl into a cave and never come out?
    5. Remember, “no” is uncomfortable and that’s okay–Acknowledgment can bring relief and prepare your mind and body for what’s to come. Your “no” will push you out of your comfort zone for some time, so allow yourself to feel whatever comes up.
      • Begin to make the word "no" a part of your regular vocabulary and make it ok.

Rewiring your nervous system to stop freezing up

It’s a big task to change your behavior–especially when others know the “yes I’ll do anything” version of you so well. It’s frightening to risk losing friends, partners, and family members. 

There could be folks in your orbit that do not like an empowered you, and your relationships will shift due to it.  But it doesn't have to be a “You vs. Them” battle. You can remain connected to people who love you and assert your needs. 

If you’d like guidance and accountability on your self-love journey, consider joining me for the course to support building self-worth.  In this course, you will:

  • Gain an understanding of your Nervous System’s protective patterns
  • Let go of old patterns of people pleasing
  • Finally start prioritizing yourself without feeling guilty or selfish

I hope you'll choose to prioritize you and build unshakable self-worth.

Be well,