Putting Yourself First Isn’t Selfish: How to Make Yourself a Priority
If I asked you if you thought you made yourself a priority, would you be able to answer yes? Have you considered what making yourself a priority would mean? We live in a day and age where it has become the norm to put others needs above our own, and as a result, we end up putting ourselves on the back burner. Below, we’re going to dive into why it’s absolutely imperative to start making yourself a priority, and unpack the guilt and shame towards the thought of putting ourselves first.
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We Were Raised On It
Think back to when you were growing up. The values of helping others were instilled in us from a very young age. The common theme being that we should always make time for helping others. Now, there is nothing wrong with this, as we should be doing this. However, there is a second part of that message that should have been relayed – make time for helping others, but don’t forget to take care of yourself.
Helping others before we help ourselves has always been a common theme, and looking out for yourself has collected the undertone of being selfish. We’ve come to associate the person who is ‘putting themselves first’ as selfish, uncaring and unapproachable. The selfish person persona – the one who never lends a helping hand, who doesn’t listen when you speak, who is too self absorbed to notice anything around them. And who wants to be that person? We don’t, so we take on extra tasks and go to events we really don’t want to just to save face.
Why The Confusion With Putting Yourself First and Being Selfish is Detrimental to Our Well Being
The confusion with putting ourselves first has stemmed from not wanting to be the selfish person (let’s give the persona a name – Ramona – and nothing personal against any Ramonas out there). You don’t want to come off as a Ramona when you say “no I can’t take that on” or when you say “no, I can’t make that event”. You don’t want people to think your ‘no’ is a snub, or an insinuation you have something better to do, or a lack of willingness to help out a fellow coworker/friend/family member.
So, because you don’t want to be a Ramona, you say yes – and yet again, you’ve put yourself on the back burner. Yay! Now your coworker thinks you’re a team player. Unfortunately, now you won’t be able to get home and get to bed early, like you had planned (because you really need the extra sleep lately).
Let’s Get to The Real Problem
The problem is not that saying no makes you a selfish person, or setting boundaries means you don’t care about others, or deciding to do something that aids in your health and well-being is wrong and sinful. The problem is, based on how we were raised and how society is today, we’re patted on the back for helping others, for becoming martyrs, for being a hero when we sacrifice ourselves. The problem is we’ve created the stereotype that only selfish people put themselves first.
So What Does Putting Yourself First Mean Then?
What It Means to Put Yourself First
When you decide to put yourself first, it means that you’re deciding to make yourself and your wellbeing a priority. It means that you are listening to what your body and mind are telling you, and choosing to live in a way that’s within your values. It means you create boundaries to protect your inner peace, preserve your energy, and allow you to function within your means and capacity. Putting yourself first means you are choosing to acknowledge your wants, needs and aspirations, and are making the conscious effort to embody that in your way of living, thinking and in your actions.
What It Does Not Mean
It does not mean you are better than anyone else. It does not mean your needs come before everyone else’s at all times. It does not give you a free pass to demand or guilt others into sacrificing their needs and time for you. It does not mean doing whatever you want, whenever you want. It does not mean a blatant disregard for the rules or law. It is not a sign of superiority or power. You do not get a hall pass to treat people less than they deserve, to demean or belittle them, nor be rude. You are not holier than thou.The problem is not that saying no makes you a selfish person, or setting boundaries means you don't care about others, or deciding to do something that aids in your health and well-being is wrong and sinful. The problem is we've created the… Click To Tweet
Why Making Yourself a Priority is So Important for Your Wellbeing
Let’s Get a Little Sappy
Like anything you love in this world – think of your friends, your family, your pets, your plants, etc. Would you deprive them of your presence? Would you deny them love and affection? Would you let them wither and shrivel without water, warmth and kindness? So if you wouldn’t do it to them, why would you do it to yourself?
From your first minute on this Earth to your very last breath, you are your own home, caregiver, and soulmate. You are your longest friend, the only person who knows all of the inner workings and an anchor when times are tough. The love you give so freely to other people, should be magnified and directed towards yourself.
By putting yourself first, you’re choosing to love yourself. You’re providing care and necessary attention to the things in your life that matter. You’re creating a space for you to grow, flourish and bloom. By tuning into your needs, wants, and goals, you are pushing yourself to grow into the very best version of yourself.
Benefits of Making Yourself a Priority
You Will Become More Content, Happy and Satisfied
When you start listening to what your body and mind need (and delivering), you’re fueling and recharging yourself. Think Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs (check out the diagram!). When your needs are met, you’re able to expand your capacity beyond the basics and reach your full potential.
You Will Achieve More Of Your Goals
By dedicating more time to yourself and your needs, you naturally will have more time to accomplish your goals. You will also place a higher importance on them, as you learn and practice that your needs are worth putting first.
You Will Be More Equipped to Help Others
When you’re not pouring from an empty cup, you will have a greater capacity to help others when you do. Making sure your own needs are met first makes helping others easier on your wellbeing, and creates a more positive energy exchange.
From your first minute on this Earth to your very last breath, you are your own home, caregiver, and soulmate. You are your longest friend, the only person who knows all of the inner workings and an anchor. The love you give so freely to… Click To Tweet
How To Start Making Yourself a Priority
Understanding the importance of why you’re making yourself a priority is key when it comes to implementation. Below, I’m going over the best ways you can start making yourself a priority and begin to put yourself first.
Choose To Live More Intentionally
Living intentionally is the act of assessing your values and changing your actions and thoughts to create a life that is in accordance with those values. By choosing to live more intentionally, you find clarity and motivation to shape your life in a way that resonates with those values. Living more intentionally means inviting mindfulness, minimalism, slow living and increased awareness of your thoughts and actions. When you choose to live intentionally, you’re choosing to prioritize your needs to live in accordance with your values.
Good Read: How to Live a More Intentional Life: 23 Ideas to Inspire You
Creating boundaries allows you to preserve your energy, protect your peace and honour your mind and wellbeing. Setting boundaries means learning and acknowledging your limits, and making the conscious decision to stay within them.
Good Read: The No BS Guide to Protecting Your Emotional Space
Good Read: 5 Things to Expect When Setting Boundaries
Become Comfortable Saying No
Saying no to things you don’t want to do is a way to protect your peace. By saying no to things you don’t want to do, you create more time for yourself and the things you need and want to do. Remember that ‘no’ is just a two letter word. It’s an answer to a question. It does not need a further explanation.
Good Read: Boundaries: Why You Say Yes When You Really Mean No
Schedule It In
Create a plan and stick to it. Pencil in things you need and want to do for yourself, and then follow through. Making an intention to plan time for yourself to work on yourself and your goals can be the key to making it happen, especially if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to leave a to do list uncompleted!
Good Read: You Need to Start Scheduling Time for Yourself
Making Yourself A Priority: A Recap
I hope you found this article helpful in deciding to put yourself first. All too often, we confuse putting ourselves first with being selfish, even though this is the farthest thing from true. Take the time to dive deep into your own life – how can you put yourself first? How can you work towards creating a life that is your own? Remember it’s a journey not a destination, and to give yourself the same grace and kindness you offer to the people around you.
Great post! It really resonated with me. I’m going to share this with my fitness group and on my social media pages.
I’m glad it did! Thank you for the love!
This is such a lovely positive post, great tips for helping personal development in looking after yourself. I think I do a good job at looking after myself most of the time. But I need to take more care of what I am eating and moving more and look after my physical health. Thank you for sharing! Xx
It’s a simple step that is so easily overlooked! I’m glad you found it helpful! Thanks for reading!
What a great reminder to take care of ourselves, and I especially like the tips for making sure we are making ourselves the priority. People with a really strong work ethic have the most trouble with setting boundaries regarding work, and your tips are so helpful. Thanks.
I’m glad you found this helpful! I completely agree, it’s so easy to engage in work related goals but personal goals are a struggle! Thanks for reading!
Absolutely love this! I repeat a version of this poem (Man in the Mirror, but altered to Gal in the Glass for me!) every night to remind myself of staying true to myself which includes self-care. The line in the poem your post reminded me of was (and this isn’t an exact quote) ‘she’s with you clear up to the end and you’ve passed your most dangerous difficult test if the gal in the glass is your friend’. Thank you for a wonderful reminder that prioritizing our care is good for everyone!! (Put that oxygen mask on yourself before helping… Read more »
Great post! Love the tips. And it’s true I don’t make myself a priority. I let other people or things distract me from self care.
Just found this and I love the ideas!!
I’m so glad you loved it! Thanks for reading!