Priorities, Sacrifices, and Limits: Putting Yourself First

We all need to make sacrifices, whether for the benefit of others or our own personal achievements.

Though sometimes, it’s easy to underestimate the impact that these sacrifices, while often well-intended, can have on our mental healthWhen our relationships demand priority and our education demands attention, we can neglect our own emotional needs for the sake of others. 

What I want to remind you of is this:  

Your personal growth and satisfaction is just as relevant, valid, and essential as everything else you value, which is why it is so important to set aside time for yourself to relax and breathe. We’re only young! The world is so, so, so much bigger than that disappointing grade in Biology, or the petty squabble with your mum last week. There is no shame in putting yourself first once in a while. You are the single most important person in your universe – it’s time you act like it.

As young women, the societal expectations of altruism and emotional sacrifice are ever-looming considerations, whether we are aware of it or not. Through films and books and lessons, we are taught that a friend in pain should always be a priority, that we have a responsibility as a friend to solve their crisis, and that any sacrifices necessary should be made to ensure their happiness is restored. 

Don’t get me wrong, it can be a fine line to tread.

While being totally selfless isn’t good for us neither is being totally selfish – our wellbeing shouldn’t come at the cost of that of our friends (and vice versa). Our happiness lay somewhere in between and depends on relationships based on mutual support, setting boundaries and the little things we do for ourselves to reset, just ‘cause.

It is so important to take a step back and look at the limits we hold. With the tiresome upkeep of friendships and the numerous societal pressures, it can become difficult to find time to do whatever it is that brings us  joy. We need to be able to prioritise ourselves and recognise when we’re being disproportionately affected by the issues of others. 

You are not a therapist, you are a friend, and friends need to have limits.

Read more: Friends – tips for happy & healthy friendships

The same can be said about school. Whether you’re a fresh-faced Year 7 or a senior student on the verge of burning out, school can be stressful, draining and painful. So often we are assured by teachers and parents and other well-meaning adults that our academic performance is the only thing worth squat, that any other “distractions” – from friends, to hobbies, to mental illnesses – are hindering our essential intellectual development. 

Spoiler alert: the world won’t implode if you don’t go to university, or if you fail maths. Academic achievements (or anything, really) should never come at the cost of your mental health. 

Know your goals and define your limits to ensure you aren’t training your mind to disregard the pain that goes into studying, on account of the reward of achievement. It’s like getting a tan – you choose to suffer through the sunburn for the sake of a temporary summery glow. Ask yourself if the skin damage is really worth it. Ask yourself why you want that tan. And if that pain feels insubstantial in light of the reward, consider staying inside – or at least applying some sunscreen.

Weird analogies aside, there are so many perks to allocating time for yourself, both biologically and psychologically. Prioritising ourselves once in a while will almost certainly alleviate stress and anxiety (as long as we’re not doing it as a form of procrastination). It also make us happier by pumping out all the dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins our frantic little hearts could ask for! 

A taste of relaxation here and there eases our heart rate and stimulates our blood flow, which in turn gives us more energy, as well as a handy boost to our memory. There’s a reason some countries around the world pay for their employees to go on holiday. 

Whether your idea of relaxation is a hike with your family, or a comfortable blanket and Netflix, or a day at the beach with some friends, your body and your mind will thank you for it – and the sooner you get started, the better you’ll feel.

and breathe neon sign on tre

The time is now. Make sacrifices for you. Learn that instrument. Write that novel. Go on that holiday. Do the things that gnaw at your edges, that spill out of your being in beams of purest you. Create and enhance and shed light on the beauty of your life. Float away from any earthly tethers and celebrate the miracle of your existence – dive under waves! Chase waterfalls! Or, if that’s not your style, curl up in an armchair with your favourite book, or binge a show that makes you smile.

Set aside time for yourself to break away from the ever-tightening grip of responsibility. Remind yourself over and over and over again, until it’s firmly pinned on the cork board of your mind – you are a priority

After all, it’s your life – who better to live it than you?

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Jayda Franks is a 17-year-old Hufflepuff in Queensland who delights in reading, writing, and activism. She also likes burritos.

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