There are times when you realize you are an option rather than a priority, and if you don't realize it, the thought haunts you.
When you get together with someone special, you feel like the third wheel or the last person invited to the party. You are the extra. Perhaps you suspect you are a last-minute arrangement. You may feel as if you are being pushed out by an invisible force, like a newer, more interesting version of yourself with more time, more money, or fewer problems.
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I've been there too many times to count. I've been the patient girlfriend, the accommodating wife, the forgiving sister, and the laid-back friend. I'd make excuses like, “Well, they're just a) busy, b) stressed, c) going through a difficult time, or d) in a strange place right now.” And these things could have been true at times. I would tell myself that I needed to be less self-centered, egocentric, and needy, which sounded good. I'd go over what I didn't do correctly. I'd try to be the better person and let them off the hook. I'd try to be a better person, more deserving of their love and attention.
But, after exhausting myself, I realized that I had allowed myself to become “the option person” in life. And, while we can't make people prioritize us, we do have the ability to make ourselves a “priority person” in life. And here's how you and I can accomplish it.
1. Prioritize yourself and your needs
I know it may seem counter-intuitive, but people like you because you make them a priority, and they don't have to make you a priority. By indulging yourself, doing what you want, when you want, and how you want, even if you are alone, you are establishing your own dominion.
People who want to make you a priority will either come to your kingdom or play elsewhere.
You will struggle with this if you are a very giving person. If necessary, get a pet or a garden going that requires you to prioritize them. You will satisfy your need to give in a healthy way that does not create relationships in which you are second best.
However, you must begin living for yourself, not for someone else.
2. Recognize users in your life, even if they are family members
It is difficult to identify and then distance yourself from the users in your life, especially if they are family members who have taught you since birth through their actions that you and your desires aren't very important. You can be compassionate if they have their own emotional baggage, but if they are repeatedly enforcing the message that you are not good enough or that your needs should not come first, you must take a step back from them when the time is right for you.
Someone taught you to be the “option person,” and you need to be honest with yourself about who that person or people are. When you remove the blinders, your life will be transformed. Promise.
3. Make a list of how much you are worth
It may sound silly, but for all the time you spend criticizing and putting yourself down, you should at the very least keep a mental inventory of your valuable assets. You've got them. You have a humorous side, a compassionate side, a loving side, a nurturing side, a smart side, a hardworking side, and many other sides. Make a list of them. Stick them to a mirror. Every day, we spend time looking in mirrors to check the appearance of our faces, teeth, and clothing. Have some internal, introspective, beneath-the-surface qualities that show you're deserving. You've probably forgotten some.
After you've internalized your list, you'll be able to recognize when others don't appreciate you, and you'll be able to stop wasting emotional energy on them or re-prioritize them as an option person sooner.
4. Invest in a worthwhile cause
I don't think we consider volunteering and charity as self-help tools, but they can be. If you are a giver, donate to a cause that will benefit from your efforts. Don't waste your energy on people who don't value you. It serves no purpose. But if you devote yourself to helping others and causes that are important to you, you will be doing something worthwhile.
Think about it: you've just added another reason why you're a valuable, worthy person. Viola!
5. Do not go back!
It's difficult for me not to reflect on the good times I've had with people and hope for better times to come, but realistically, you shouldn't go back. A priority person will not look back or return to being the option person once they realize they are the option, not the priority. It will be painful. I've never had the experience of someone wanting to know what went wrong and try to fix it. I've gotten either silence or a caustic list of how I'm the root of all evil. So, unless you want to be a doormat or someone's whipping dog, or revert to being an option, you must move forward.
Hope is a wonderful thing, unless it distorts your reality and derails your future.
6. Have faith that better people and better things are on the way!
According to other online posts, the number one reason people become options and are unable to make themselves a priority is that they do not believe there is someone or something better just ahead. Perhaps few people want to admit it, but it appears that a lot of drama stems from the belief that they are “meant to be” with someone specific: giving up on that person is giving up on love. Giving up means going back on our word. We made a promise. We made a commitment. To the end, we must remain faithful and true. We must perish with the ship!
But the thing is, once the other person gave up on love, stopped trying, and began investing in other things, the love ceased to exist. When the friendship was abandoned, it withered and died. Relationships, like plants, require things to survive and more attention to thrive. Holding on to someone or something because of a story you told yourself a few years ago will deprive you of the most important things in your life: your possibilities and your future.
As cliche as it may be, it is true: every ending is the beginning of something else. And if you've worked on yourself and your priorities, the right people and opportunities will come your way.
7. Maintain your flexibility and make new friends
One of the reasons high school or some jobs can be awful is that we are stuck with the same people and routines. Unless someone new joins the group, nothing new or interesting happens. However, instead of waiting for someone new to come to you, as “option people” do, you should go out and meet new people, make new friends and contacts, and broaden your horizons. You probably fenced yourself in as a “option person.” You may have even lost touch with others because you were trying to be available for that other person or because you allowed yourself to be sucked into all of their plans while having none of your own.
Even the worst dating article I read contained some truth: no one will make you a priority until you make them show that you are a priority.
And if you're waiting for someone to finally give you the metaphorical red roses you deserve, you've turned your back on the person who is already prepared to do so. So get off that person's radar. If they come around, that's fantastic. Even better if they don't, which is more likely. To tell you the truth, it appears that many people want second chances because they can get third, fourth, and fifth chances as well. How tiring are they? Allow them to learn the hard way. Don't continue to be their life's soft landing spot.
8. Be clear about what you want from the relationship
This may cause you to panic, and if it does, please accept my apologies. But, if you don't want to be an option, if you don't want to be taken for granted, and if you want more, you have to have “the talk.” I know this is the best thing, and it should be number one. All of the other things I've said are probably moot. And I know that for many people, it will be like scheduling a root canal and then showing up to discover that they are out of laughing gas. But, in some ways, it isn't much more difficult than number one, prioritizing yourself and your needs. But you must actually communicate them to someone important in your life, or to someone you want to become important in your life.
You might even need your list of worth to remind yourself that you are valuable.
9. Accept being alone without becoming a hermit or emotionally shallow
You may be hanging on and growing accustomed to being an option person because you are more afraid of being alone and lonely. Or you are more at ease with your relationship's lack of intimacy. Or perhaps you are afraid of intimacy. Sometimes distant relationships or relationships that come and go quickly aren't because they are great, epic friendships where people are so perfectly comfortable with each other that they can pick up right where they left off. They sometimes work because the people in these relationships lack emotional depth or are avoiding long-term intimacy, which necessitates accountability. In a long-term relationship, you want to keep your depth, your ability to connect emotionally with someone, and your ability to be held equally accountable. So, while you need to be able to weather life on your own, you don't want to become so at ease that you lose your ability to have meaningful relationships.
Being a priority is essential for meaningful relationships.
So, while you need to be able to weather life on your own so that you don't settle or cling to the wrong people, you also don't want to become so comfortable that you lose your ability to have meaningful relationships.
10. Give yourself permission to be a little high-maintenance
I mention this last because I believe many of you option people have worked so hard in your lives to be the accommodating one, to please someone, to not be upsetting or demanding in any way. People have tried to portray me as high maintenance in order to persuade me to be the jellyfish friend or the sad-sap girlfriend they required. I've made friendships and relationships all about the other person, and I used to think I was doing the right thing.
Most people need to work on number nine and stop using other people as crutches, door mats, or whipping dogs. People don't need other people as much as they need to stop relying on one another and get in touch with themselves. So, do yourself a favor and be high-maintenance, make some demands, and be able to let them and yourself walk alone at times.
There are times when we will not and cannot be a priority for someone we deeply care about, for legitimate reasons such as they have a very young child or an elderly parent who is very ill. There are times when we must be understanding of the demands of a job, such as when a person works shifts or has to collaborate with people from different time zones. We need to understand their interests and how they will affect the relationship. If the legitimate reasons are genuine and not just a ruse or outright lie, you may be doing the right thing by remaining open, accommodating, and flexible.
However, if the other person communicates to you that you are not worthy of being a priority, you are free to walk away.
Of course, you may require more than the other person can provide.
So believe that you will find a worthy partner who will want to walk alongside you rather than one who will have you chasing their shadow.
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