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6 Ways To Start Making YOU Your Top Priority

Inspiration

Make yourself a priority. At the end of the day, you are your longest commitment.—Unknown


The quote you just read? Humor me and focus on the word "commitment" more than "priority" for just a sec, please. So, we all know folks who are scared of commitment, right? The term that is usually used for them is commitment-phobe. Some of the signs that indicate if someone is one include—they don't like to make long-term plans; most of their relationships are casual; they flake on personal commitments; they're attracted to individuals who refuse to fully commit to them; their expectations are unrealistic in both personal as well as professional relationships; and they're pretty poor communicators.

OK, with this list in tow, rather than thinking about all of the other people who may immediately come to mind, point the finger towards yourself. Is this how you are when it comes to your interactions with others? More importantly, is this how you are when it comes to how you interact with yourself?

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When's the last time you planned to go on a summer vacation and started saving up for it the previous fall? How many of your relationships consist of people who are as committed to you as you are committed to them? One sign of a poor communicator is someone who doesn't listen well. Are you truly in tune with your ownmind, body, and spirit to the point that when they need you to give them some extra TLC, you stop whatever is going on and do it?

I don't know about you, but I'll definitely raise my hand in this class and confess that, for years, I was so focused on trying to change the ways of the commitment-phobes in my life that I didn't realize I was one myself. How? I didn't access the reality of what that quote said—I didn't see myself as being my longest commitment and therefore, honor myself as such.

Oh, but bay-bay. I have done a complete 180 on that for the past few years now. Here's how I stopped being the greatest self-commitment-phobe I knew and made myself my own top priority. I think if you try some of these tips, you can master doing the same thing for yourself as well.

1.Look at Your Daily To-Do List. Make Sure You Are on It.

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There are a billion-and-one reasons why all of us should have some sort of daily to-do list. It creates order in our lives. It holds us accountable for our tasks and how we utilize our time. It keeps us productive. It significantly reduces our stress levels. You know what else it does? It teaches us how to properly prioritize.

If you want your day to be super-productive, it's a good idea to do the hardest things first. That will keep you from procrastinating. It will also boost your level of self-confidence. But as you're in the process of figuring out what goes where on your list, make sure that you are somewhere on it.

Whether it's a mani/pedi appointment, stopping by the store to get your favorite bottle of wine, or simply setting aside an hour to listen to your favorite podcast, it's important that you consistently remind yourself that you are something that should take precedence—each and every day of your life.

2.Double-Check Your Reason(s) for Agreeing to Things

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This is something that took me a long time to learn. Sometimes, when someone asks us to do something, we say "OK" or "sure" without really thinking it all the way through. Then, because we want to keep our word, we follow through although we're slick irritated or resentful about it.

You're not really helping anyone out if you're doing something with a bad attitude. You're also not benefitting yourself if your "yes" always comes from a place of fear ("Will they still like me if I say 'no'?") or codependency.

Nothing is good about being a selfish person. But if you want to be a true blessing, give when you know you've got the time, the resources, and the right spirit. You can know whether or not you do by taking a moment to check your own schedule, your own bills, and if you've made sure that you're rested and centered enough to help out.

A healthy person knows that it's always best to give from their surplus; not from their lack.

3.Designate a Day Each Week That Is Yours (ALL YOURS)

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Let me clarify what I mean by this. I'm not saying that you need to call in sick once a week. I'm also not saying that you should blow your budget with reckless spending. What I am suggesting is that you set aside a day when you make sure you do exactly what you want to do—no justifications, explanations, or apologies to anyone else given—on a consistent basis.

It could be a weekday to binge-watch a favorite show. It could be a weekend morning to have brunch at one of your favorite spots. Whatever you decide, it needs to be about disconnecting from your regular schedule and focusing on what makes you happy and peaceful (not one or the other—both).

I'm not saying it has to be the same day each week either. Just make sure that you block out a few hours, each week, to cater to you and only you. Doing something as simple as this will get you used to prioritizing life so that you'll be better at doing my next recommendation.

4.Realign Your Other Priorities

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It's gotta be one of my favorite quotes on the planet. And it's been my personal experience that the only ones who get offended by it are the very ones who need to hear it more often:

"Poor planning on your part does not automatically constitute an automatic emergency on my part."

I can't tell you how many times someone would be reckless with their own life and then call me to fix it like it was something I had to do. Wanna know why they felt that way? Because I let them. I didn't say "no" enough or I didn't make sure that my needs—the things I am actually responsible for—were taken care of before tending to their stuff.

If you're constantly playing catch-up with your finances because you're always paying someone else's bills or your relationship is suffering because the friend who wants you to shut up while she's in a toxic relationshipalso always wants you on the phone with her for hours on end when it blows up in her face? Listen, I'm not saying to shut down on these types of folks. What I am saying is give $40 rather than loan $100 and meet your friend at a coffee house after you've spent quality time with your own significant other.

Realigning your priorities is simply about making sure that all of your priorities cooperate well with one another; that none of them cause chaos or disarray in your world as you're in the process of addressing them all.

When you make sure that you're good, it helps to keep you centered and focused. By making you your top priority, you can make much wiser decisions about everything (and one) else.

5.Make 6-8 Hours of Sleep Non-Negotiable

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Moodiness. Fatigue. A lack of motivation. An increased appetite. A low sex drive. A damaged immune system. Clumsiness and forgetfulness. Guess what all of these things are a direct sign of? Sleep deprivation.

There are some people I know who are super emotionally unstable. They've been like that for so long that they think their mood swings and pop-off nature are normal. Guess what they all have in common? They each get no more than five hours of sleep every night. (Oh trust me, I've asked.)

Me? I'll sacrifice a lot of stuff, but what someone is not gonna get in the way of is my sleep. Personally, I like my bed so much that it's like a taking a trip to Six Flags but that's totally beside the point. For the sake of your health and your sanity, make getting no less than six hours of sleep a top priority. Nothing (or no one) should be more important than your body being on point and you staying in your right mind.

6.Totally Spoil Yourself (at Least) Once a Month

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The way I handle everything and everyone in my world has totally changed once I started to spoil myself. Once I made sure that treating me to something that makes me feel sacred and special was on my agenda, it became more and more difficult to let others make me feel less than or challenge my worth and value.

That's why I'm a HUGE FAN of encouraging my sistahs to spoil themselves. Don't let the word "spoil" put you in the mindset of being frivolous or a brat. One of my favorite definitions of the word is "a treasure accumulated by a person". You are a treasure so why not surround yourself with things that remind you of this very fact?

The more you value and prize yourself, the less you'll settle for less from others.

It's the ultimate perk of making the decision to make yourself your own top priority.

Featured image by Getty Images.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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