I’ve noticed as I’ve grown older, probably more so in the last decade, that I am becoming more and more like my Mom. The things that used to drive me crazy about her have now become my own idiosyncrasies.
- Mom never sat still. There was always something that had to be done or had to be started. It was exhausting to watch her constantly moving and constantly doing.
- Mom was never a procrastinator. She got things done and expected everyone else to tow the line as well.
- Lastly, she made everything and everyone a priority, except herself.
I’m finding right now, that the latter trait pretty much defines my life.
A huge chunk of that is my dog Bryce. He is continuing to struggle with breathing and with overheating and he isn’t sleeping through the night. His needs supersede my own needs basically because he depends on me. His quality of life and comfort are on me.
I could use that as an excuse and say that it’s just temporary, but deep down, I know that’s not true. And, I’m pretty sure if you asked my BFF, Jill, she’d tell you I’ve been that way for most of my adult life.
Reasons why one doesn’t put oneself first
So, why is it that I take the time for everything and everyone else, but I don’t even take the time for myself? My search on Google for “why can’t I make myself a priority” came up with various reasons as to why people do this:
- There is a need to please others.
- It feels selfish.
- It makes you feel guilty.
All of the above reasons could be applied to me at various times in my life, but I think the foremost reason why I don’t place myself first is that I am innately a caregiver archetype.
An archetype is defined in dictionary.com to be:
“(in Jungian psychology) a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., universally present in individual psyches.”
I found this great blog entry posted by Jeannie Campbell that describes me to a T. In a nutshell, the blog post says:
Caregiver archetype: “The Good”
- They are supportive, understanding, empathetic, encouraging, and optimistic.
- Caregivers are most fulfilled when they are making a difference in the life of someone else.
- Others always come first, oneself second. Responding to needs is exciting and challenging to them.
Caregiver archetype: “The Bad”
- Resentment can set in when too many demands are made of an overly compromising Caregiver, and eventually, this can lead to self-martyrdom.
- Some Caregivers have a hard time with balancing self-care with care for others.
- This means the Caregiver is often trying to please everyone and be everything to each person, which is exhausting.
- They take a risk in their pursuit to help others, and can end up getting harmed themselves, whether this comes in the form of burnout, being too much of a doormat, or being exploited.
Yep, that is me! Okay, great, now we know why I do not make myself a priority.
The big question is how do I circumvent something that is ingrained in every fiber of my being? That may seem like an exaggeration, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. Some may see my care for Bryce as a choice. To me however, there is no choice; putting him first is as natural as breathing. So no, that isn’t going to change. He is in as good a place as he can be because of everything that I do; and yes, that is said with some arrogance. I don’t think that anyone would do as good a job as I do. The problem with that line of thinking (as the “bad” section indicates above) is that I’m approaching the edge of burnout right now. Lack of sleep has made me physically tired; and emotionally, I’m running on empty.
For the sake of my sanity, perhaps, the answer does not lie with circumventing who I am. Perhaps it lies in trusting that there are others who can take care of Bryce as well as I can and who will love and spoil him with the same fervor I do.
Tomorrow, I have a doggy play date for my other dog Charlie. I met a woman at the veterinary office when I took Bryce to get checked out. She does dog walking, dog daycare and dog boarding. She and I seemed to click. So I’m hoping perhaps it will be an option that will provide some respite for this weary caregiver.