By: Dana Zillgitt, Guest Blogger
Growing up, I was always the protector, the intimidating one, the one to both fear and admire. I was the mama bear, making sure my friends got home safe and sound, no matter how much it broke my own heart. I was the one my friends often brought their significant others to meet, so I could approve. I was both the savior and the protector. I was the guardian of the broken waters and the bridge to cross to the other side. In college, I had an epiphany, a moment where nothing before seemed to matter, and where everything that happened after almost had a starting point: How can I be somebody else’s protector if I cannot even protect myself? I lost a best friend, as well as a group of friends I considered family, that day for a multitude of reasons but it was in that moment where I knew that I could not save someone else if I could not save myself, if I could not put myself first. I said goodbye to one life and hello to another. I found my strength again by putting myself first.
I realized my strength wasn’t measured in how many people I could take care of or how much dead weight I could lift. It was measured in how many times I got back up, in the way I carried myself, and how I could bring myself back after each event. My strength came from somewhere inside, from a place I’m still not sure of its exact location, but it’s still in there somewhere—lodged in between my heart strings and my lungs maybe. I realized that a strong woman is not someone to fear or to loathe but to admire.
But that does not prevent me from admitting I had a lot of help along the way. I grew up with strong women, women who knew their worth and knew what they deserved. Who showed me you can be both feminine and strong, have an open heart while still protecting your self. You can take care of others but not at the expense of your own sanity.
And today, in my early 20s, I am surrounding myself with more and more positivity. With stronger people who not only recognize my worth but recognize their own. They inspire me through their own fortitude and depth to pursue hopes, dreams, love, and so much more. They have made me believe that there is a certain power in being vulnerable, in letting others in, and that just maybe, just maybe, I am worthy of this crazy life I have.
It can be really hard to put yourself first and prioritize your needs.
- What are some practical things you can do to put yourself first?
- What would you say to a friend who takes care of everyone else?
- Who are some role models that demonstrate strength from taking care of themselves first? What qualities or behaviors can you learn from?
Dana has her BA in International Affairs & Spanish as well as a mild obsession with rescue animals and all things caffeinated. She’s mastered the art of the selfie, fort building, and even the sass battle. Plus, she can quote 95% of Anchorman and Zoolander.
Image via liveandlovework.com