11 Ways That Putting Ourselves First Is Not Selfish
Most of us have been taught to think of others before we think of ourselves. We all praise our children when they are generous, helpful, thoughtful, and kind while expecting nothing in return. We also have great admiration for people who give selflessly of themselves, particularly when it appears to be a personal sacrifice to give as much as they do. Our society places great value on this level of selflessness. In contrast, people who don’t appear to give enough of themselves and who seem to always think of themselves before others are considered selfish, and their behavior is frowned upon.
But the reality is, that if we want to be truly unselfish and generous we need to put ourselves first. Taking care of ourselves before we take care of anybody else is not only not selfish, it is necessary in order to become truly selfless and give of ourselves willingly, freely, and happily to others. If we haven’t first taken care of our own needs, we won’t be able to genuinely and effectively take care of the needs of others. Here are eleven reasons why it is actually unselfish to put ourselves first in our lives.
1. We have to love ourselves first before we can truly love others.
Deep down we are all very similar and have the same very basic needs. By learning to understand and take care of our own needs, we learn to understand the needs of others. We can develop compassion for them because we know that they are just like us. They have faults just like we do; if we can love ourselves in spite of our faults and shortcomings, then we can love others as well.
Practicing generosity and compassion with ourselves is the best way to learn to also do it with others, even with total strangers. By understanding that we are important, valuable and lovable, we also will ultimately learn to see those same qualities in the people around us. We are all human, and we all deserve the same amount of love. To give that love freely to someone else, we must first feel that we have received enough love ourselves.
2. We can’t expect others to take care of our needs for us.
While we all appreciate getting help, the truth is that no matter how much help we receive, we are the only ones who can truly take care of ourselves. None of us has a fairy godmother who is going to drop out of the sky, wave her wand and make everything well again. And if we keep waiting for someone to save us, we will never be happy or reach our true potential. Similarly, by not being the best that we can be, we will never be able to give our best to others.
By making ourselves our number one priority, we make sure that we will be ready to face whatever is asked of us when the time comes. If we are too busy, distracted or worn out because we haven’t done our best to take care of our own needs, we will be in no position to take care of any of the needs of those around us.
3. The best way to improve our world is by improving ourselves.
As Gandhi once wisely said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The only way for us to make the world a better place is by becoming better people. We all have been guilty of complaining about what is wrong with our society, our culture, our family, our employer. But how many of us have the foresight and willingness to point our finger back at ourselves as the source of the problem?
As the story goes, when a British newspaper in the early 20th century asked the question: “What is wrong with the world today?”, the British writer and journalist G.K. Chesterton simply wrote back, “Dear Sirs, I am.” If we all can understand that we are just as responsible for what ails our world as the next person, and if we all make the effort to make ourselves better people, then we can slowly make an impact on those around us and on our communities. In order to truly help others become better people, we must first become better ourselves and provide them with the example that they can follow and the goal that they can achieve.
4. We need to recharge sometimes in order to have anything to offer to others.
Life takes a toll on all of us. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we will quickly and frequently feel tired, stressed, distracted, and just plain burned out. If we don’t take the time to take care of our own physical and emotional needs, we will not be a in position to help others with theirs. We can’t be our best when we are not at our best.
It is therefore not only unselfish, but absolutely necessary to take time out from our self-imposed duties every once in a while and make sure that we are paying attention to our number one duty: fulfilling our own needs. It is important to learn to say “no” to others sometimes so that we can say “yes” to ourselves. Otherwise, we will soon be unable to properly fulfill any of our responsibilities, and there will be nothing at all left to offer to anybody else.
5. We love our partners better when we love ourselves first.
Whether we are currently in a relationship, or are presently looking for one, we will be much better partners if we learn to make ourselves and our needs a top priority in our lives. By taking the time to invest in ourselves, we also allow our partners to do the same for themselves. We lead by example and show them that because we love them, we want them to put themselves first, just like we put ourselves first. That way we are both better prepared to take care of each other when the moment presents itself.
Another way that we are better and more loving to our partners by placing ourselves first, is that by doing so we are always more relaxed, more genuine, and more enjoyable to be with when we are around them. They will enjoy the time they spend with us so much more if we are fulfilled instead of needy when we are with them.
6. We take better care of our friends and family when we care first for ourselves.
Anyone who loves and cares about us will want to see us at our best, just like we want to see them at their best. If our friends and family see that we are unhappy, tired, worried, distracted, or unhealthy, they will worry about us just as we would worry about them. No one who truly loves us wants to see us sacrifice our well-being and happiness for theirs. We need to remember that they are just like us, with the same emotional needs, including the need to see their loved ones happy and fulfilled.
Just like we need to be at our best in order to give our best to our partners, we must also be in our best shape to do the most that we can for all our other loved ones. When we are physically and emotionally drained, we are of little use to all those that we would like to help.
7. We must take care of our health above and before all else.
Out of all our needs, our health is by far the most important. If we are not healthy, then every other aspect of our lives will soon start falling apart. Just like we would never want to see any of our loved ones in bad health, they also do not want to see us suffering in the same way.
When we don’t eat well, exercise sufficiently, and get proper rest, we put our health at risk. By failing to make our health our number one priority, we are actually failing not just ourselves, but all those around us who depend on us for help. Making sure we are always as healthy as possible is one of the most unselfish things we can do, because it allows us to ensure we will always be available when called upon to be of service to someone else.
8. We perform our jobs better when we put ourselves first.
We all know that we think more clearly, work faster, and produce better results when we are in our best mental and physical shape. By choosing to sacrifice ourselves in order to spend more time at our jobs, we are actually doing ourselves, our co-workers, our clients, and our employers a huge disservice. It is not selfish to say “no” to excessive work hours and unbearable workloads. By saying “yes” to these, we will actually be producing lower quality work and at a slower pace than we would otherwise. We need to learn to place our own needs above the demands of our jobs in order to perform the best that we can.
9. We are not disregarding others when we have regard for ourselves.
There is a big difference between “putting ourselves first” and “disregarding the needs of everyone else.” It is not a one or the other situation. We should never choose between them; we must actually choose them both.
In order to truly have regard and empathy for the needs of others, we need to first do the same for our own needs. By learning to take care of our needs first, we learn to also take care of the needs of all those around us. Compassion for ourselves leads to compassion for everyone else. Loving ourselves helps us to love those around us as well.
10. Taking care of ourselves is unavoidable.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we will all reach a stage where will have no choice but to start taking care of ourselves and our needs. The longer we put it off, the harder it will be and the longer it will take for us to fully recover. The wisest thing to do is to take some time on a regular basis to assess our situation, both physical and emotional, and to make sure that we are always on top of it. If we don’t, we will find ourselves eventually hitting rock bottom and struggling very hard to pull ourselves up from it. The most unselfish thing that we can do for those who love and need us is to make sure that we never reach that point.
11. Most importantly, we will be our happiest.
When are our happiest, we are our most helpful to those around us. Therefore, our top priority everyday should be to always try to be as happy as we possibly can. This is not a selfish act in the least, and we should never feel guilty about wanting to be happy. We must realize that because we are happy, we can provide more happiness to not only our loved ones, but to all those with whom we come in contact. We all know that there are some people who are always a pleasure to be around because they just exude joy everyday. We should all strive to be like those people, and to make the world a brighter place by simply being a brighter light ourselves.