Why We Put Ourselves Last

You know that prioritizing your self-care is important. You know boundaries are key to keeping you healthy, energetic, and happy. So why is it sometimes so difficult to put it into practice? What’s stopping you from putting yourself first?

There’s enormous pressure to keep other people happy, to be ‘unselfish’, and to take responsibility for other people’s emotions. Society wants you to be a people-pleaser, and that’s especially true if you’re a woman. So, you might need some extra support to prioritize your self-care and stop the habit of putting yourself last. Here are a few self-care myths busted to help clear the way.

  1. No one will like me if I say no – That is a potent one! Part of the strength of the ‘being unselfish’ myth is that people will like you more. That equates to being good will ensure you’re loved. It doesn’t. 
  2. Giving is your identity – The ‘good girl’ narrative depends on you identifying as the unselfish caregiver. You get positive strokes for always being the one running around helping others. But it should be balanced by being able to receive.
  3. Self-care is selfish – Self-care is the complete opposite of being selfish. Self-care is applying the same level of kindness to yourself as you do to your family, friends, and colleagues.


Reasons to Put Yourself First

Look back over your life and see how often you have been expected to drop everything for someone else, let someone else go first, or have the bigger cookie. Do you feel entitled to say no or to quarantine your ‘me-time whether it’s going to the gym or having a massage or an early night? You might be feeling overwhelmed by the demands of others, or even resentful that people expect you to drop everything for them.

  • Your Physical Health
  • Your Mental Health
  • You’ll be a Better You
  • You’ll be More Balanced
  • You’ll have Healthier Relationships
  • You’ll be Happier

Putting yourself first is not an optional extra!

It’s essential to avoid burnout and keep yourself happy and healthy. And putting yourself first doesn’t mean you disregard the people you care about in your life. On the contrary, putting yourself first gets you in much better shape for having positive, mutually supportive relationships with your partner, family, friends, and colleagues.

Getting into the habit of prioritizing yourself takes a bit of practice. Here are some things to keep in mind while building the healthy habit of putting yourself first.

1. Be true to yourself

Remember what Shakespeare said: “To thine own self be true.” That’s the key to self-care. Listen to your heart, to your intuition, and do what feels right for you.

2. Commit to yourself

Committing to yourself means you’re no longer on the bottom of your priority list. It means acknowledging that you deserve some time out and nurturing too. And it’s not a zero-sum game. Prioritizing your needs doesn’t mean doing it at the expense of others. It does mean having a more balanced approach to life and treating your needs and desires as equally valid.

3. Say no

Learn to say no to things that are not important to you, are not in your best interest, or for which you don’t have the energy. Be clear in your mind about what you are prepared to do for other people and where that boundary is. Practice saying no to low-stakes requests like ‘can I have another cookie,’ and you’ll be better prepared to refuse bigger requests like hosting the family Christmas.

4. Delete guilt

Life is simply too short to feel guilty for not being able to make everyone happy. Don’t prevaricate or send mixed messages. Feeling guilty hands your power over to the other person and gives them leverage to get what they want. Be kind but clear about the boundaries you have set and leave it at that.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you’re the go-to person for everyone else, you may find it hard to ask for help yourself. That goes doubly so for perfectionists! Learn to acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses, ask for help where you need it, and practice receiving it with gratitude.

Developing the habit of putting yourself first will stand you in good stead. You will have more time to do the things you want to do, and you won’t feel resentful at being overburdened. As a result, you will see improved relationships built on honesty and clear boundaries. You will have more energy and be less stressed. Self-care is an investment in your health and happiness, and it’s worth starting that investment today!

Remember, always put yourself first. You matter. 

Julie Fairhurst




Your turn…

How are you handling the ups and downs of midlife? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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