Breaking the Cycle: Why Women Struggle to Prioritize & Put Themselves First
In a world where societal expectations, gender norms, and cultural pressures often dictate women's roles and responsibilities, it is not uncommon for women to find it challenging to prioritize themselves.
After consulting with my wife and coaching partner (Coach Deanna) on this topic, I did my homework to explore some of the reasons behind this phenomenon, to shed light on its consequences, and to provide actionable steps for women to prioritize their well-being.
Additionally, we are providing some steps on how others can support and encourage women to put themselves first. As a man, I am not trying to solve this for women or pretend that I fully understand their journey. I am looking to add perspective to what I feel is an often overlooked issue.
Are you ready? Let's dive in!
The Struggle to Prioritize: Statistical Insights and Ages Affected
1. Cultural and Societal Expectations:
From an early age, women are often taught to prioritize the needs and happiness of others before their own. They may internalize societal expectations that define their value based on their ability to nurture and care for others. This cultural conditioning can make it difficult for women to assert their own needs and desires.
2. Balancing Multiple Roles:
Women are increasingly juggling multiple roles in their lives, such as careers, relationships, and caregiving responsibilities. According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2020, 40% of households with children under the age of 18 had both parents working full-time. This balancing act often leaves or finds women with limited time and energy to focus on themselves.
3. Age and Life Transitions:
Certain life stages can exacerbate the struggle to prioritize oneself. For instance, young mothers often prioritize their children's needs, while middle-aged women may prioritize their partners' careers or aging parents' well-being. These transitions can make it even harder for women to carve out time and attention for their own needs.
We need to understand that there are negative effects to these three aforementioned points. While many women feel "pressed" to be everything to everybody, allow me to borrow a lyric from R&B singer Karen White, and even though many feel they can be, there needs to be a collective understanding of one simple thing; "I'm Not Your Superwoman" (good song - look it up).
That said, when women consistently put others before themselves, several negative consequences may arise. Let's tackle what those look like.
Consequences of Neglecting Self-Care:
1. Physical and Mental Health Implications:
Neglecting self-care can lead to increased stress levels, burnout, and compromised physical and mental well-being. Research published in the Journal of Women's Health indicated that women who neglect their own needs have higher rates of anxiety, depression, and chronic health issues.
2. Decreased Self-Worth and Identity Loss:
Constantly prioritizing others can erode one's self-worth and result in a loss of personal identity. Women may find it challenging to distinguish their own needs and desires, leading to a diminished sense of fulfillment and purpose.
Before any angry Dads blow up my inbox with the "what about us questions" fear not, as I will get to that in another article. For now, we're focusing on what that busy woman in your world may be needing at this moment.
Ladies, it is important that you take some accountability for the fact that some of this lack of the ability to zen when needed is stemming from the conditioning you have allowed to happen in your own world. Your kids might say; "Well, if mom does everything, then why do I have to do anything?" Your partner might say, She is going to do it her way anyway so why not cut the middle man and allow it?"
"Well Coach, if not me, then who? How do things get done around here if I don't do them?"
Allow me to be clear. There is nothing wrong with you doing it all IF that is what you are choosing. Should that be the case, I am encouraging you to make time to take time and that means implementing a self-care routine that can either help you to do all of it or none of it, depending on your mood.
Society often places a disproportionate burden on women to meet the needs and expectations of others, which can lead to feelings of guilt when they consider prioritizing their own well-being. Women may internalize the belief that putting themselves first is selfish or neglectful of their responsibilities.
Regardless of one's personal or professional life, guilt can have a profound impact on women. It often stems from the perception that prioritizing personal needs and self-care is incompatible with professional success or dedication. As a result, women may hesitate to set boundaries, take breaks, or advocate for their own advancement. This guilt-driven behavior can lead to increased stress, burnout, and hindered career progression.
Moreover, research has shown that women are more likely to face societal backlash when they prioritize themselves in the workplace. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that women who assertively negotiated for their own interests were viewed as less likable and competent compared to men. This societal bias can further intensify feelings of guilt and make it challenging for women to prioritize themselves without fear of negative consequences.
To address guilt in the business world, it is essential to challenge and reshape the underlying narratives and expectations placed on women. This can include:
Promoting a Culture of Self-Care: Encouraging organizations to prioritize work-life balance, create flexible policies, and foster a supportive environment that values self-care and personal well-being.
Redefining Success: Shifting the definition of success beyond solely productivity and achievements to encompass holistic well-being and fulfillment. Emphasizing the importance of self-care as a pathway to enhanced productivity, creativity, and overall job satisfaction.
Empowering Assertiveness: Providing training and support to help women develop assertiveness skills, negotiation techniques, and effective communication strategies. This can enable women to advocate for their needs without feeling guilty or compromising their professional standing.
Leadership Support: Encouraging leaders and managers to actively support and promote self-care practices among their teams. Lead by example and foster a culture where self-care is valued and celebrated.
By addressing guilt and challenging societal expectations, women can navigate the business world with greater confidence, prioritize their well-being, and achieve success on their own terms.
Steps to Prioritize Self-Care
1. Recognize the Importance of Self-Care:
Understanding that prioritizing oneself is not selfish but necessary for overall well-being is the first step. Acknowledge that self-care enables women to better support others and fulfill their responsibilities.
2. Set Boundaries:
Establishing boundaries and learning to say "no" when necessary is crucial. Communicate your needs clearly and assertively, without guilt or fear of judgment.
3. Practice Self-Compassion:
Be kind and forgiving to yourself. Celebrate achievements, big or small, and avoid self-criticism. Treat yourself with the same compassion and care you offer to others.
4. Prioritize Time for Yourself:
Allocate dedicated time each day or week to engage in activities that bring you joy, relaxation, and personal growth. Whether it's reading, exercising, meditating, or pursuing a hobby, make self-care a non-negotiable part of your routine.
5. Try Not to Overthink the Moment:
If it is not a priority to them, then do not make it a 911 for you. Your family will be fine if you don't find that other sock that they believe they so desperately need. Learn to "off-load" the things to your children & spouse that they really can do for themselves. Just like you can create dependence, you can also create independence, which means some of what they are asking of you, they can really do on their own but asking you is way easier. That will free up time for you to practice self-care as needed.
Self-Exercise: Gratitude Journaling: Take a few minutes each day to write down three things you are grateful for. Focusing on the positive aspects of your life can enhance overall well-being and help shift the focus towards self-care. Ask yourself, every day, what did you do for yourself that you believe made you better and presented you with added energy.
Supporting Women in Prioritizing Themselves:
1. Encourage and Validate:
Recognize and validate the importance of self-care for the women in your life. Offer encouragement and support in their efforts to prioritize themselves without judgment or guilt-tripping.
2. Share Responsibilities:
Take an active role in sharing household chores, caregiving duties, or work-related responsibilities. Create a more equitable environment where women have the freedom and time to put themselves first.
3. Foster a Supportive Community:
Build a network of individuals who understand and respect the importance of self-care. Surround yourself with friends, family, or mentors who can provide guidance, encouragement, and accountability.
The Wrap-Up: The issues of women and the lack of prioritization cannot be covered in totality for every woman in this one article. My goal is to shed some light on the topic and to start the conversation in spaces where others are open to having it.
Putting oneself first is an essential aspect of personal well-being for women. By understanding the underlying reasons why women struggle to prioritize themselves, recognizing the consequences of neglecting self-care and taking actionable steps to make self-care a priority, women can reclaim their own happiness and fulfillment. Let us support and empower women to break free from the cycle, promoting a more balanced and thriving society for all.
What is your feedback on this? We would love to know what you think about this topic or if there is another topic you'd like us to blog about, just email us at email@example.com and share your thoughts.
Until the next time.
I AM Coach Kenn