9 subtle signs you’ve been neglecting your own needs for too long (without even realizing it)

Eliza Hartley by Eliza Hartley | March 19, 2024, 3:19 pm

There’s a thin line between selflessness and self-neglect.

When we’re so focused on others, our job and other responsibilities, we often forget about our own essential needs.

And the worst part? We’re usually the last ones to notice.

Neglecting our own needs can sneak up on us, subtly and quietly. The signs aren’t always obvious, especially when we’re too busy looking out for everyone and everything else.

That’s why I’ve put together a list of 9 subtle signs to look out for.

If you find yourself nodding along, it might be time to hit pause and start taking better care of you.

Remember – self-care isn’t selfish. It’s essential. So, let’s dive in and learn how to spot these warning signals before they get any worse.

1) You’re always tired

No matter how much sleep you get, you always wake up feeling like you could use a few more hours.

This can be a clear sign that you’re neglecting your own needs. It could be physical rest you’re lacking, or maybe it’s emotional rest.

Remember, our bodies and minds are interconnected. If you’re emotionally drained, it can show up as physical exhaustion.

Often, we push ourselves too hard, trying to meet everyone else’s needs and forgetting our own. 

Sleep isn’t just a luxury – it’s a necessity. So if you’re constantly feeling exhausted, it might be time to reassess and prioritize your own needs for rest and relaxation.

Remember, taking care of yourself isn’t selfish – it’s essential for your overall well-being.

2) You don’t remember the last time you had fun

This one hit me hard.

I found myself so buried in work and responsibilities that I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I did something just for the sheer joy of it.

Fun wasn’t a part of my daily life anymore. My schedule was packed with tasks and errands, leaving no room for activities that I truly enjoyed.

This is a significant red flag. If you’re in a situation where fun seems like a distant memory, you’re likely neglecting your own needs.

We all have many responsibilities, but it’s crucial to balance them with activities that bring us joy.

Whether it’s reading a book, going for a walk, or having coffee with a friend – these moments of joy are not frivolities, they’re necessities.

And if you don’t pick a time to unwind, your body will do it for you…

3) You’re constantly getting sick

Our bodies have an incredible way of communicating with us, and one way it does this is through our immune system.

Research has shown that stress and neglecting our own needs can weaken our immune system, making us more susceptible to illnesses.

So if you’re catching colds more frequently or struggling to shake off a flu, it’s a sign your body is telling you it needs more care.

Neglecting your own needs doesn’t just impact your mental health, but physical health too.

It’s crucial to listen to these signals and take the necessary steps to prioritize your well-being.

Remember, health is wealth, and neglecting your own needs could cost you much more in the long run.

And just like physical exhaustion shows when you’ve neglected self-care for too long, so does emotional tiredness…

4) You’re always on edge

Have you noticed a short fuse lately? Small things that didn’t bother you before now cause you to snap.

When we’re constantly on edge, it’s often a sign that we’re neglecting our own needs, particularly our emotional needs.

Constant stress and burnout can make us more susceptible to mood swings and impatience. It’s as if we’ve used up all our resources catering to others and left nothing for ourselves.

This isn’t fair to you or the people around you.

It’s important to recognize this sign and take steps to address your needs.

5) You feel guilty when you take time for yourself

Here’s a big one. Feeling guilty when we finally carve out some “me” time.

This often happens when we’re so used to putting others first that taking care of ourselves feels like a luxury we don’t deserve or can’t afford.

But here’s the truth – feeling guilty for prioritizing your own needs is a clear sign that you’ve been neglecting them for far too long.

So next time you catch yourself feeling guilty for taking some time off, remember that you can’t be there for others if you’re not there for yourself first.

It’s not just about self-love, it’s about self-preservation.

If you don’t take time for yourself, you might lose sight of what you cherish the most…

6) You’ve lost sight of your dreams and ambitions

Remember when you used to dream big? When you had goals and aspirations that excited you?

If those dreams now seem like distant memories, it’s a sign you’ve been neglecting your own needs.

It’s heartbreaking when we lose sight of our dreams because we’re too busy catering to the needs of others.

Our passions and goals are a vital part of who we are, and neglecting them can leave us feeling lost and unfulfilled.

It’s never too late to reconnect with your dreams.

Start by setting aside some time to reflect on what you truly want in life – not what others want from you, but what you want for yourself.

Remember, your dreams matter. Prioritizing them is not selfish, it’s an act of self-love and a crucial step towards living a fulfilled life.

7) Your relationships are suffering

There was a time when I noticed my relationships with my loved ones were starting to strain.

I was always there for them, but I had little energy or patience left to truly engage or connect.

This is a common sign of neglecting our own needs. When we’re constantly giving and not replenishing ourselves, it takes a toll on our relationships.

We might become resentful, withdrawn, or simply too exhausted to engage meaningfully with the people we care about. And that’s not fair to them or to us.

Instead of always being the one who gives, it’s okay to take a step back and focus on your own needs.

You’ll find that when you’re in a better place emotionally and physically, your relationships will thrive too.

8) You’re neglecting your hobbies and passions

Hobbies and passions help us relax, express ourselves, and maintain a sense of identity outside our roles and responsibilities.

If you find yourself consistently skipping your morning run, painting sessions, or book club meetings because you’re too busy taking care of others, it’s a sign you’ve been neglecting your own needs.

Our hobbies are not just ‘extra’ things we do; they’re essential for our mental wellbeing.

They provide us with joy, fulfillment, and an escape from the stresses of daily life.

If your guitar is gathering dust or your running shoes are looking unused, it’s time to reconnect with what makes you happy. 

9) You’ve forgotten how to say ‘no’

Saying ‘no’ can be one of the most empowering things we do for ourselves.

Yet, many of us have forgotten how to use this simple but powerful word.

If you find yourself always saying ‘yes’, even when you don’t want to or it’s not in your best interest, it’s a clear sign you’ve been neglecting your own needs.

Remember, saying ‘no’ is not a sign of weakness or selfishness.

It’s a sign of self-respect and an affirmation of your worth.

You have the right to prioritize your own needs and protect your wellbeing. Don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise.

Final thoughts: Self-care is a journey not a destination

The journey to self-care and prioritizing our own needs is unique for each of us.

It’s a process of unlearning patterns of self-neglect and learning to listen to our bodies and minds.

The American Psychological Association has recognized the importance of self-care for years, stating that it is crucial not only for personal well-being, but also for maintaining professional competence and providing high-quality services to others.

Acknowledging the signs of self-neglect is the first step.

As you navigate this journey, remember that it’s okay to put yourself first. It’s okay to say ‘no’. It’s okay to rest, to have fun, to pursue your passions.

Most importantly, remember that you are deserving of the same care and kindness that you extend to others.

Prioritizing your own needs isn’t selfish. It’s fundamental for your overall well-being.

So, as you step back into your daily life, carry these insights with you. Reflect on them.

And when you’re ready, take those vital steps towards prioritizing yourself.