We don’t do the things we know are good for us because we are so busy taking care of others that we neglect ourselves. The problem isn’t lack of information – we have plenty of information about the importance of sleep, healthy foods, and exercise. The problem is how we prioritize our lives.
Psychologists tell us that some people are inner-directed and some are other-directed. That is, some people focus on their own internal guidance system for making choices about how to spend their time and energy. Their own self-interest ranks very high on their list of priorities. “What’s best for me?” is a key guiding principle in determining where they focus their attention and how they make day-to-day decisions.
And some people are other-directed, which means that their primary focus is external, not internal. They are primarily concerned with relationships, especially people they care about. “How can I help others?” is a key question in how they spend their time and energy. Building and nurturing relationships with loved ones, family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers is the guiding principle in their lives.
Research indicates that, in general, men tend to be more inner-directed, while women tend to be more other-directed. There are exceptions, of course, but as a group, men are focused on themselves while women are focused on other people. Men like to build things while women like to build relationships.
This difference in psychological orientation goes a long way toward helping us understand why we women often do such a poor job of taking care of ourselves. We run around filling others’ lamps with oil, but forget to fill our own lamps first. Then we wonder why we’re often exhausted, frazzled, stressed-out, anxious and/or depressed!