They say you only live once. But you don't live at all if you fail to choose yourself first. Only you know what your heart yearns for, and you are the only person you can rely on to lead a fulfilling and happy life. Those who martyr themselves for others often end up resentful and bitter.
Does putting your own wishes before others make you feel selfish? I'm here to tell you that when you choose yourself first, not only will your sense of well-being increase, but your relationships will also improve. That's one of the reasons why it's so important to choose yourself first.
This article will outline more reasons why it's important to choose yourself first and what this looks like. I will also suggest 5 tips to help you choose yourself first.
What does it mean to choose yourself?
When I talk about choosing yourself first, I am not suggesting you bulldoze over everyone in your way. But I recommend that you learn to advocate for yourself, recognize your needs, and know you are worthy of asking for your needs to be met.
I stayed too long in a previous romantic relationship. I put my partner first and ignored my own needs. As a result, I went along with what he wanted, and I served his ego. I have stayed too long in plenty of one-sided friendships too.
When we choose ourselves first, we love and respect ourselves enough to recognize our value and worth. This self-love sets the tone for how we expect to be treated by others.
People who choose themselves first know how to honor themselves. We find a healthy balance between what we want for ourselves and what others may want of us.
If you lived in poverty and fed everyone before yourself, often going without, you would eventually starve. We can lose ourselves in other people. Yes, it's nice to support our children, partners, and family, but if we don't feed ourselves first, there is nothing of us to give to others.
The importance of choosing yourself first
There are barriers to choosing yourself first.
There is a false belief that choosing yourself first is selfish. This belief can trap us in inertia and lead us to waste many years too scared to follow our dreams for fear of other people's opinions.
I speak from the heart when I say learning to choose myself taught me self-love. It also taught me to value myself and how to advocate for myself.
I spent almost 4 decades putting other people before myself. Heck, I would give friends my own bed when they came to stay. The same "friends" wouldn't have even given me a crumb from their table.
When we constantly put others before ourselves, we tell them they are more important than us. We are training them to dismiss us and rank our needs below theirs.
As this article in PsychCentral says - "meeting our own needs is key to happiness."
We are often raised to meet the needs of our parents, and in the same process, we tune out the cries of our own needs. These patterns continue into our adult relationships. Sacrificing our own needs comes at the expense of our happiness.
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5 ways to choose yourself first
If you are used to putting others before yourself, it will take some time to undo this pattern. But if you follow these 5 tips, you will learn to advocate for yourself and benefit from greater joy and fulfillment in life.
1. Change your mindset
I've already mentioned this, but let me say it explicitly and as clearly as possible.
It is not selfish to choose yourself first!
Choosing yourself first is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and others.
Both women and men can struggle to choose themselves first. But women are revered for being "selfless." Culture tells us that being selfless is almost synonymous with being a woman. I call BS on this!
Societies and cultures expect women to sacrifice themselves for their children and husband. This thinking is outdated and archaic.
There is a lot of untangling at the start of our journey of learning self-worth. Working through the guilt and shame of putting ourselves first is all part of a healing process.
Before we can unapologetically choose ourselves with no remnants of guilt or shame, we must learn to change our mindset concerning what it means to put ourselves first.
2. Find a balance
It can be challenging to choose yourself first when you have children. But these circumstances make it even more important to choose yourself first.
The truth is that many women lose themselves in their parenting role. This identity loss can lead to unhappiness and resentment. Working parents who maintain their hobbies outside their children are more relaxed, happier, and better problem solvers.
Brene Brown, the acclaimed author, speaks openly about finding the balance between her work, interests, and family life. At the start of each school year, she sits down as a family unit, and they discuss what work and school commitments they all have, and they look at what extracurricular activities they each want to participate in.
Brene and her husband do not prioritize their children. The adults do not sacrifice themselves to be glorified taxi drivers for their children.
You are investing in being a better person by continually learning, growing, and pursuing your interests. Choosing yourself first is inspirational for your children, who will learn that adulthood is not just about serving children.
If you want more tips, here's our article on how to focus on yourself more.
3. Learn to say no
Being comfortable with saying "no" is one of the most meaningful and practical changes we can make.
Saying "no" can be extremely difficult to enforce for all you people pleasers out there. Saying "no" can look like different things. You are allowed to ask for thinking time, you are allowed to say not this time, maybe next, and you are also allowed to say no - not ever! Here are some examples of this
- "Thanks for asking. Let me think about it and get back to you."
- "I would love to be able to help you move house, but I just don't have the capacity right now."
- "Thanks for thinking of me, but it's not really up my street."
Saying "yes" to something we yearn to say "no" will lead to resentment and possibly burnout. If you are looking forward to a quiet night to decompress from your workweek but end up getting dragged out to help a friend, you are sacrificing your well-being and happiness.
When you say "no" to one thing, you say "yes" to something else.
4. Eliminate the sense of "should"
Oh, the guilt of feeling like we "should" do something. Maybe we feel we "should" apply for promotion, or we "should" join the parent and teachers committee.
The truth is that some "shoulds" we have to knuckle down and get on with. Yes, we should meet work deadlines, pay our house insurance and tax our vehicles. We can't get out of these.
But if you think you "should" phone a friend or you "should" go to the gym, it's time to reassess. Don't live your life through obligations. If you don't want to call a friend, don't! If you regularly don't want to go to the gym, it's your heart asking you to find a different exercise to engage with.
Living a life of shoulds can feel like we are living someone else's life.
Me? I am grateful to have addressed my "shoulds," and now I feel a greater sense of control and empowerment over my life.
When we eliminate "I should," we find space for "I get to," and these words come with excitement and spark.
5. Embrace your authenticity
When we live with genuine authenticity, we become tuned into our yearnings. Living with authenticity means being true to ourselves and ignoring pressures from the outside.
We may have hobbies and interests that aren't deemed "cool." Our work colleagues may tease us for liking particular styles of music or spending our time off in a specific way. But as long as we do what pleases us, these words should not matter.
Authentic people say what they mean and mean what they say. In a previous article dedicated to being authentic, we recommend these 5 tips to be more authentic.
- Get to know yourself.
- Embrace your passions.
- Follow your values.
- Explore your patterns.
- Show up as yourself.
We honor ourselves when we embrace authenticity.
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When you learn to choose yourself first, you invite happiness and fulfillment into your life. This increase in happiness means you show up as a better person in all your relationships. Negative traits such as guilt, shame, and resentment disperse when you learn to honor yourself first.
Do you have any tricks up your sleeve for how to choose yourself first? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!