Do you ever start your day with good intentions to focus on the stuff that you need to do, only to find that because you decided to reply to emails first, most of the day has slipped through your fingers and you’re chasing your tail? Yep, it’s a very common frustration and when we become stuck in this cycle, we’re allowing our day to be dictated by other people’s priorities. I was explaining this to a few people recently and it got me thinking about how every day, millions of us wake up with the intention of doing certain things and then get sucked into chatter and possibly other people’s demands and expectations and next thing, we haven’t got any time, energy or emotions left for us.
When we have people pleaser inclinations, we’re near allergic to making us a priority—we see it as “selfish”. We stress so much about taking care of other people’s priorities that we don’t fully register that some of the people who we damn well near break our backs for, do not make us a priority.
Now it’s not about tit for tat but if we don’t get clear on and own our priorities, and we don’t make some of these our well-being which includes insuring that we’re using our positive qualities and characteristics in healthy situations, we are in danger of waking up one day and wondering what the hell we have to show for all of our efforts–unappreciated and incredibly frustrated with a big regret hangover.
When I talk to people about knowing their priorities, acting like they’re a priority and not accepting being treated like an option, I’m often greeted with blank face–“What? Me make time for me? Oh, I don’t know about that. Where would I even start?”
Sometimes we’re so busy giving, fixing, healing, helping and yes, sometimes trying to change others that we don’t really stop to ask: Who the hell is taking care of me?
We’re so busy auditioning, proving, convincing and trying to convert that by extension of these activities, we are deprioritising us.
We’re saying, I don’t think that we’re equals. I don’t think that I deserve love, care, trust and respect yet, but if I show you all of the ways in which I’m willing to put you above and beyond me, maybe one day you will decide that I’m worth being decent to.
Just as they advise us to put on our own oxygen mask first before we help others on a troubled flight, it’s vital for us to not only be boundaried in how we go about serving others but to also ensure that we are taking care of our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health. What good are we to anyone if we are bankrupting ourselves in the process of being a “good” or “loving” person?
There are people who cannot find the time to pick up the phone or put energy into a relationship but they’d find the time to ping-pong messages all day on WhatsApp or Facebook or they’d have time for sex but not for conversation or intimacy–we’re a priority when they want something and an option when someone or something else is in the frame.
When we expect a romantic partner to make us a priority not an option, it’s not about making us superior so that others can be seen as inferior. It’s not even about, Make me more important than everyone else.
We cannot accept being treated like an option because if we’re treating that person like our one and only or a priority, putting them on a pedestal makes them ensures that we are beneath them.
The person who treats us like an option will not accept being an option. They’re expecting to be our priority while they have free reign. There’s always a driver and a passenger in these situations—they want things all on their terms.
How we prioritise our time or our tasks is similar to how we prioritise our relationships. Not every task has the same priority and each use of our time is not as effective as others. We must choose. If we don’t spend our time and energies on the tasks that produce the result we want, we’re not going to achieve our desires and goals. This is why so many people read about productivity and time management. If we put all of our energies into admin and fire-fighting, we won’t do the money tasks or have anything left to do the creative work. If we prioritise distracting activities and instant gratification type stuff, odds are that what we definitely aren’t prioritising is relationship producing actions and activities.
Feelings aren’t a finite resource nor are our actions, so it’s not as if we have to compete for our share of a person’s pot.
Just like when I became pregnant with our second daughter and initially worried about how parents spread around that intense love, we realise that when we’re open, we just love some more and it’s not about taking from someone else in order to do so.
This is important to note because every day, people share their stories with me about the pain they put themselves through in order to catch a person’s attention or ‘win’ them from someone else. They believe that everything boils down to them not being “good enough”.
A person can love their family, their kids, their friends, etc., and love us as well.
Each relationship is different and we’re not competing—when it’s implicitly understood and communicated that two people are in a romantic relationship, this in itself defines the priorities because to be in a mutually fulfilling loving relationship, you each prioritise the getting to know each other and then the loving of each other. Unless it is an open relationship (which is not the subject matter of this blog), there cannot be any competing for romantic love so if they’re divvying up their romantic energies, it’s flush. When romantic priorities are clear, no one is inferior or superior and there isn’t a disparity between what each person thinks that they’re there for. If this is still up for debate, this is not the relationship that we think it is and we must step back and seriously question why we’re trying to make something serious with somebody whose priority for instance, might be to continue to shag around, or party it up, or to never have to feel vulnerable and committed.
Each time we feel as if we’re being treated like an option or we expend energy on trying to prove that we are worthy enough of being a priority, this is a big fat code red alert that we need to step back, waaaaay back. It lets us know in no uncertain terms (even if we have denied the evidence and our intuition along the way) that the way in which we see this person or the relationship, is not the way that they do. We cannot begin to treat and regard us as the priority that we are if we cloak ourselves in denial. We have a duty of care to get conscious, aware, present so that we can readjust our participation in the relationship with healthier boundaries.
If we’re unclear and passive about our priorities, someone else will come along and rule us with theirs. We mustn’t give away our power by making people who don’t share our priorities responsible for our priorities.
Our boundaries and values communicate our preferences for how we want to live and what is fundamentally important to us. The person who treats and regards themselves as a priority will not accept less than what they can already be and do for themselves. We must set our standard and when people we prioritise treat us like an option, we need to close down their options by removing ourselves.