Why It’s Not Selfish to Put Yourself First

3 January 2019

So many of us were brought up to put other people’s needs before our own. Were you told to think of others first? Perhaps you were even told that you were selfish, self-centered, or greedy if you didn’t put others before yourself. Women, in particular, are taught that their primary role should be looking after their family, friends, colleagues – anyone but themselves!

But selflessness is not next to saintliness – it’s a one-way street to burnout and stress! If you have absorbed the lesson of selflessness for your whole life, you might take some convincing that putting yourself first for a change will not make you a Bad Person. Here are some good reasons why putting yourself first is not just good but necessary!

  1. You’re also a loved one

Don’t forget that to your partner, friends, and family, you are a loved one and are deserving of just as much care and attention from them as they are of you. They want you to feel happy, loved, and healthy. The dynamic of ‘others before self’ would quickly become absurd if you applied it to everyone around you. You would end up with a kind of competitive selflessness with no one getting what they need.

  1. Self-care makes you happy

You’re likely to become overwhelmed and exhausted if you make a practice of putting others’ needs before your own. Pushing yourself and denying your needs and desires is a shortcut to resentment and stress, even depression as your stores of serotonin run down. Saying no when you need to, and giving yourself space to relax and restore, will balance out your brain chemistry again and lift your mood.

  1. Resting is crucial for your health

Your body needs rest to stay in good shape. Being a people-pleaser raises your levels of the stress hormone cortisol. So does saying yes to everything, and never getting to complete your to-do list. There are too many demands on your time in today's busy world. High levels of cortisol significantly increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and inflammation. Rest allows your body to heal and restore. You need to prioritize your health by saying no sometimes.

Putting yourself first puts you back into balance. It allows you to be your best you, not just for yourself but others as well. When you have taken care of your own needs, you will have the energy reserves to give to others from a full heart, without resentment or anxiety, without expectations or guilt.

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