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Why I Decided To Put Myself First Before Anyone Else

Updated: May 21, 2020

by Melody Ong. |

“I have been told that I’m a selfish child, just because I made decisions for myself rather than to please others.” - yours truly, me.

We often grow up learning to put others before ourselves, hence we learn to help others and to please others. The idea of putting yourself first was not thought of by our parents or guardians, we’re told that putting ourselves first is a selfish act, but I beg to differ; it is time to debunk this society myth. Putting yourself first before anyone else is not selfish, especially when you are doing so to care for your physical, mental and emotional health.

Here is something that we all need to understand. You are responsible for your life, to bring you wherever you want to be because nobody else is going to do it for you. How are you going to achieve what you want without putting yourself first? To illustrate this point, let me give you an example. 

A friend of yours called up after a tiring day of work, wanting to let go some of their steam but you, on the other hand, is exhausted and needed sleep to tackle tomorrow morning’s office meeting. In this case, which choice would you make? Stay up and listen to your friend while battling your sleepiness and cue for rest? Or to tell them you needed some rest right now because your mind and body need the rest?

Many would have picked the former: We’d help our friend because we are too shy to turn them away, or we refused to be seen as selfish, but at what expense? After a long time being on the phone, you finally head to bed feeling more lethargic than usual thus making you groggy at the next day’s meeting. All you wanted was to be able to present well, with a smile on your face but instead, you’re looking fumbling around nervously and feeling tired. Is that the outcome you truly wanted? 

If your answer is no, then it is time to learn to prioritize yourself, for you. There is no shame in doing so and you must understand that it is not a selfish act. Here are a six reasons why I put myself first before anyone else:

1. A form of self-care

Prioritizing yourself is a form of constant self-care. Caring for your needs and putting yourself first will cultivate a better mental, physical and emotional health. I learn to care for my own body and mind by making sure I do what I want — that is, as long as it does not harm others or put yourself in danger. Every day, I make sure to slow down, enjoy my cup of coffee and toast before going to work and I know with that, I will start my day at work in a better mood and with more energy. This is a simple act of putting myself first before tackling my daily routine.

2. My priority is me

I understand that to get to where I want to be, I have to do it myself. I always strive to build a better life for myself. We all long to enjoy a life where we can have whatever we want, whenever we want; but to get to that place of comfort and freedom, prioritizing yourself is of utmost importance. For example, instead of hanging out with my friends every Saturday night just so they would have a hangout buddy, I choose to stay home and work on my side hustle, as my priority is to generate more income so I can get to where I want to be. This is an act of putting myself first before entertaining others.

3. It helps set boundaries

Are you tired of always being taken advantage of? In many workplaces, as employees, we’re often told to take on more tasks than we can handle and this causes burnout. A simple way to set boundaries is to say “No”. When a coworker approaches me to ask for a favor in which I know that I’m not able to comply, I think of myself first. Will I be able to take on that extra workload? Will I be able to deliver on time? Will this come at the expense of my health? If it’s not possible for me, I apologize and let them know that I’m not able to help them out, because at the end of the day, I will also have to face my own struggles when I complete my work as well. When you start putting yourself before others, you’re showing people how you’re treating yourself, and letting them know how you prefer to be treated.

4. Your relationships will flourish

When you pay more attention to yourself, you learn to love yourself in many ways, and this in return cultivates a better relationship with yourself and others. The reason is that when you love yourself, you are more open, attentive and refreshing to be around. Your authentic self draws other people closer to you like a magnet. If you ever come to a point where a relationship overwhelms you — be it with your parents, your partner or your friends, it is always wise to spend some time thinking about yourself and your needs first before trying to fix the relationship.

5. We can give more when we are full

Imagine you have a bag full of candies and a child runs up to you asking for a few, you’d gladly give to them because you know you still have enough left for yourself. Giving away 3 - 4 pieces wouldn’t hurt, right? It applies the same to our lives. When we are so full of happiness and a giving heart, you’d tend to give more to others yet still feel satisfied with whatever you have. I used to make dinner for my partner and it felt like a chore because I was always making food only he likes; but when I start thinking of what I would like to have for dinners too and making them for the both of us, I found that I was happily taking on this task more than usual. This is an act of putting myself first so I can give more.

Learning to put yourself first before others is a hard pill to swallow, especially when we do not like being seen as selfish. I’m not saying we should cut off helping people altogether, but we should learn to balance between helping others and helping ourselves. It is time to accept that prioritizing yourself is something we will need to do to advance in life — to live happier, cultivate better mental, physical and emotional health, and to achieve a life you want.

You can also learn more about the writer on Instagram.

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