If you’re a lover of TIkTok, like myself, you have probably heard the “I’VE GOTTA PUT ME FIRST” sound (from Empire). People are using it to talk about ways that they have to put themselves first, some silly, some serious. As I was listening to the third book in my year long, weekly book list from my friend Leah George, I was inspired to write this post.
See, somewhere along the way I lost some of myself in the stress and hustle of running multiple businesses, raising kids, being a wife, figuring out where our family would “land” and live, trauma from life experiences (traumatic births, mass shootings, and a plethora of other really fun things) and you know…navigating a pandemic. I’ve caused myself actual physical health problems by internalizing all of the stress of life and almost never focusing on myself.
Starting this December I decided it was time to “put me first”, and I started on a mission to do a few things for ME (and in return, my family). I’ve started down this road a few times, but always with the overwhelming weight of impending wedding seasons as a full time photographer. If you have been following along via our Podcast, blog, or social media, then you probably know that I have been in the process of transitioning to part time wedding photographer. Like…very part time. The kind of part time an old gal like myself can really savor and enjoy.
I made the call to cut back in 2020, but after a rescheduled COVID wedding season I found myself with a more insane wedding schedule than I have EVER had for a period of about 2.5 months in 2021.
At the end of December, I walked in from work and my husband handed me a sheet of paper. Our budget, compared to how much overtime he would need to work in order to pay ALL of our bills with that overtime and allow me to SLOW DOWN and focus on what I REALLY want to be doing for a few months, and to take care of myself. As an aside, I will never ever in my life forget that conversation. It might not seem like a lot to some, but as an enneagram 3, Aries, workaholic, having my husband put his foot down and tell me I needed to slow down meant a lot.
Let’s break this journey down into four main categories.
I took a look at how much we had been spending as a part of our home build and “enjoying life” and I cringed. Like hard. Like REALLY hard. No matter how smart you think you are, it is so easy to let your spending get out of control. What happens when our spending gets out of control? We can go broke, work work work work hustle hustle hustle to keep paying for things we probably do not need, OR stop and realize that we need to cut back.
In the past month I have picked up doing my own nails again (spend $75 on a bunch of supplies that will last you a year VS one mani), making my own coffee syrups, doing crafts with my kids instead of “going to Target for fun”, baking instead of hitting up a bakery, and so much more.
As a bonus, saving money also has me preparing meals, spending more time at home which allows me to get excited about exercising again, and spending more time with my people.
It turns out, saving money not only makes me feel far more accomplished than blowing money, but it also trickles down into my other two categories. Who would have thought that saving cash money would feel like joyfully shouting that “I GOTTA PUT ME FIRST”.
It make me cringe to admit, but since the beginning of the pandemic I put on a solid 20+ pounds. No, not the end of the world, but it was suddenly impossible to lose it. Stress will do that to you. Guess what else stress will do? Exacerbate other health issues, destroy your immune system, cause hormonal imbalances, and a plethora of other ailments.
Wow…not being so focused on GO GO GO makes a world of difference. No, you don’t need to slow down at work to do this stuff, but STARTING with saving money and spending less on stupid crap inevitably results in more time to focus on your health (and boom…more money to spend on health vs. junk).
Oh man, this one is a doozy. It is SO EASY when you are in hustle mode to get swept up in the whirlwind of “OMG I HAVE SO MANY FRIENDS AND SO MANY RELATIONSHIPS TO JUGGLE”. But guess what? Nothing reminds you to reign in your inner circle like a season of hustle.
It is so easy to spend your time at endless social engagements, saying YES to every persons request or demand, or get too emotionally attached to people that don’t feel the same way about you. Before you know it an endless amount of people know all about your personal life, and if you’re anything like me, you need to be slapped in the face emotionally to remember that not everyone deserves a seat at your table.
I am certainly not suggesting that you wall yourself off and cut people off (although do that if you need to). But when you are allowing anyone and everyone into you INNER circle (meaning the people you can count on and trust the most), you are probably setting yourself up for disappointment.
The most magical thing that happens when you get clear on who that inner circle is? You have more time to nurture those fulfilling relationships (family and close friends) while still cultivating relationships outside of your circle. Suddenly you have less social overwhelm, which makes networking more doable.
More money and more time also leads to more opportunities to reevaluate the way that we are looking at the world. When we are looking at everything through a lens of exhaustion, we are missing SO MANY opportunities to grow.
People that are able to look beyond themselves are inherently kinder, more empathetic, and more intelligent, but if you are SO focused on working and hustling, you’re probably suffering from a pretty shitty mindset block.
If books or audio books aren’t your thing, maybe you start watching documentaries or listening to podcasts. Whatever it is, focus on looking outside of yourself and cultivating gratitude and empathy.
Life is a journey and there isn’t some magical destination that will make you happy. It is a practice. We can be ambitious and driven…and also mindful.
Remember, it is all connected. How we spend our time, our money, and our energy is so tightly woven together that when we lose sight of one, we can so easily lose sight of all of it.
What happens when we put ourselves first? We are better friends, mothers, wives, husbands, fathers, sisters, brothers, bosses, employees, HUMANS.