Almost everyone knows that it’s important prioritize yourself at times (e.g. you know the whole “put your breathing mask on before helping others” analogy).
But why does looking out for yourself and asking for what you want feel so much easier said than done?
Perhaps it could be due to the way you were raised – to just sit down, shut up, and do as you were told. Maybe you weren’t encouraged to ask questions, give criticism, or otherwise identify and communicate your own needs. Or perhaps you are simply a self-described “people pleaser” that genuinely wants everyone to be happy, but tends to put yourself on the back burner.
Idk, I’m not your therapist. But whether it’s due to conditioning or personality, if this sounds anything like you and you are consistently putting others first, keep reading.
Putting others first is all fine and well for a while, but the reality is that if you don’t prioritize yourself – if you neglect your own needs, wishes, desires, and truths – you may eventually feel jaded, irritable, uncomfortable, imbalanced, stressed out, confused, or otherwise unfulfilled.
This is especially risky in relationships, where you may know someone so well that you feel compelled to start making assumptions about what they need, or you may love someone so much that it’s even easier to forget about your own needs and wants.
But if you fall into this mindset, it can be damaging to your relationship, your partner’s confidence in who you are as a person, and to your own sense of self.
Luckily, we came up with some questions to prompt an open and honest conversation about asking for what you want, which should help you (and your partner) prioritize yourself both in and outside of your relationship.
We also demonstrate asking each other some of these questions in our new YouTube “Couple Talks” video about Asking for What You Want. If you resonate with this article, or are simply curious about our answers, make sure to check it out!
4 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR PARTNER:
This is a really great opening question that gets straight to heart of the conversation in a non-aggressive manner. How your partner (or you) respond to this general question will also determine just how much your partner (or you) may need to talk this through.
The previous question is an opener, and if the answer is yes, the reasoning behind that yes can be broad and/or complex. This question will help create space for an honest answer about you or your partner’s potential role in having prevented each other from self-prioritization.
You may be surprised by this answer, because if you have hindered your partner from asking for what they want, it likely wasn’t conscious or intentional (we hope!). But if this is indeed the case, this question will be the first step to rectifying the issue and preventing the same from occurring in the future.
The second question might have uncovered how one or both of you could unintentionally be hindering the other from asking for what they want. A partner 1) always demanding that they get their way and 2) rejecting every idea, suggestion, or opinion their partner has are two pretty explicit ways their partner could end up feeling hesitant to continue expressing what they want.
But another common way is when partner A (the hindered one) tries to say no to something Partner B suggests, and Partner B then acts overly negative or upset about Partner A’s no.
Essentially, feeling hindered from asking for what you want isn’t always about having *your* ideas rejected, but not feeling safe to reject things yourself, thus feeling pressure to say yes to everything your partner wants so as to not hurt their feelings.
This question could be very revealing, because this type of behavior is more subtle and not always noticeable, but can have a huge impact on a relationship dynamic.
If my introduction to this article wasn’t convincing enough, this question will help your both realize the significance of each partner asking for what they want in the relationship, the potential consequences of continuing any “bad” habits, and the steps each person may need to take in order to improve certain aspects of the relationship that have come to light from the prior three questions.
4 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF:
If you have a feeling that the ways in which you’ve neglected self-prioritization is more of a personal problem than a relationship issue, you may want to reflect on these questions either before, after, or instead of the “Questions to Ask Each Other” questions above (although doing both certainly won’t hurt!).
It’s nice to be courteous, but even generosity requires balance. If you’re always doing things for your partner, friends, or family – especially when they are not asking you to – you might inadvertently establish a habit of overthinking about others and making assumptions about what they need and want, thus ultimately feeling depleted or unbalanced for no good reason. Yikes.
This question has the potential to reveal any discomforts you may have around requesting things of others. If the answer is yes, take ample time to reflect on why this may be. Is it a pride issue – not wanting others to know you need help? Is it a self-conscious issue – not wanting others to feel like you depend on them? Is it an abandonment issue – not wanting to rub others the wrong way or upset them, so that they don’t leave you? Or is it something else?
This is a pretty big task, and if you’re not getting anywhere with your own self-reflection, perhaps consider seeing a (virtual!) therapist to help figure it out.
If “Partner B” in Question 3 reminded you of your partner or someone else you know, and you’ve ended up looking like this you’ve said no and they’ve responded poorly…
…then you may want to consider how their responses might be preventing you from continuing to share how you really feel.
As mentioned under Question 3, feeling hesitant about sharing your true wants and needs does not only stem from rejection (or fear of it), but also people’s past responses to your rejection, disagreement, or differing idea.
Not wanting to hurt or upset your partner and others makes sense, but you can’t always forgo your own ideas, neglect your own desires, and put your own dreams on the back burner without eventually hurting those same relationships (and, of course, yourself).
This is a key question to ask if you’re wondering whether you have been able to prioritize yourself enough lately. If the answer is “1997”, then there you go… get out there and do something *just* for yourself. Take up a new hobby for “no reason”, backpack the PCT, venture out on a solo weekend trip, take yourself out to dinner and order whatever you want, run a nice bubble bath, spend a weekend reading your favorite books, etc. etc. Find someone that is so YOU and find a time to do that, with no excuses and no apologies.
Hope these questions helped you have important conversations about how you can better prioritize yourself, both within and outside of your relationships.
If you can think of any questions that should be added to this list, comment them below!
Loving the old; exploring the new,