Always put yourself first.
Many people in the personal development field indicate that putting yourself first is not selfish. I agree. But let me use this blog to share why I encourage you to put yourself first.
My team and I discussed this topic in a recent meeting. We debated whether we should always put ourselves first and if doing so is selfish.
I listened to the lively debate, curious about where the team would land.
We agreed that putting yourself first is different from being selfish and that sharing why with our community is important. Because many people avoid putting themselves first and unwittingly undermine their health and rob the people they love of their healthy, happy presence.
If putting yourself first ever feels wrong or weird, or you wonder why you should, here are insights on three things that may be useful for you:
The difference between putting yourself first and being selfish
Why it’s often hard to prioritize yourself.
The difference saying yes to your own needs first can make in your life.
The distinctions between selfish, selfishness, and self
Whenever there is a back-and-forth conversation within our team, I usually suggest we go to the dictionary to get the true meaning of a word to make sure we have the same understanding of the terms we’re using.
Here are Google’s definitions of selfish, selfishness, and self:
Selfish: Concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard to others.
Selfishness: Being concerned excessively or exclusively for oneself or one’s own advantage, pleasure, or welfare, regardless of others.
Self: a person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action.
And a common social definition or idea of self is “the qualities that make a person unique or distinct from anyone else.”
And then there’s the inner fitness perspective
We have a more extensive view of self at The Inner Fitness Project (TIFP). Every person is also distinguished by their personal story, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, actions, and reactions.
TIFP has a “frame” that helps you see and understand the impact of your internal environment. We call the frame the three selves: the surviving self, the thriving Self, and the Infinite SELF:
The surviving self is the part of you that reacts to life and looks for what’s wrong. It is quick to judge, takes things personally, and is responsible for crowding your mind with the scary and uncomfortable thoughts you want to avoid.
The thriving Self gives you the ability to hope, dream, and make new choices. It is the part of you that is resilient, curious and looks for what’s possible. It sees every situation as an opportunity to grow and expand.
The Infinite SELF is at the center of everything and every human being. It’s unaffected by the chaos of human confusion and fear. It is the part of you that feels connected to something much greater than yourself.
Take a moment to check in with yourself.
You are likely familiar with the stress of your mind being pushed towards old arguments and unhappy memories.
Now, think of moments when you have felt your heart and mind swell with enthusiasm and a sense of possibility. Remember the joy of feeling capable and mentally, emotionally, or spiritually strong.
Last, recall an experience that conjured awe, wonder, or amazement at the nature of the universe or whatever name you call your higher power.
Inside every human being lives these three landscapes. We move between these three selves all day, every day. The self we lead with dictates our thoughts, feelings, and life perspective.
From this expanded perspective, can you see that knowing and caring for the self is crucial?
How your relationship with yourself affects your loved ones
Your relationship with yourself governs how you act and react. If the goal is to bring your best self to the people in your life, then giving yourself the time and attention that becoming your best self requires is a gift you give to the people you love.
You or someone you know probably had parents or caregivers who never took the time to tend to their inner Selves. Every human being carries left-over hurt. If we do not attend to that hurt – see it and make peace with it – it becomes a part of our unconscious actions and reactions.
Unknowingly, we project or pass our unhealthy feelings and perspectives onto others. This unconscious behavior makes taking care of Self first critical.
When we realize the impact we have on the people around us, taking care of Self first becomes a selfless, responsible act.
We help others best when we help ourselves first. That’s why the flight directive to put our oxygen masks on first before assisting others is advice that can save lives in the air and on the ground.
Still, it may be difficult for you to put yourself first because…
What you were likely taught about yourself
You may have been raised to be kind and respectful of others, consider others’ feelings, and help those in need. All without ever being taught to do the same things for yourself.
Or maybe you can’t put yourself first because you’re so busy rushing around trying to please everyone else that you don’t even realize what you need or want.
Or keeping busy is a way to distract yourself from your real feelings or issues you are trying to avoid.
A new look at your life
Think about it…
Being aware of, understanding, and seeing the three selves allows you to see yourself and approach every experience in your life differently.
For instance, when you’re operating from your surviving self, you’re thinking solely about the part of you that is rooted in your physical being. You see yourself as mere flesh and bones, and your mind is driven by its fears, safety, and basic needs.
When operating from that limited perspective, you might behave selfishly because the surviving self is always concerned with its safety and survival.
However, shifting to the thriving or Infinite Self perspective gives you a more curious, hopeful, and accepting mindset. These more expansive views put you in partnership with the universe, make more room for thriving, and reduce the time you spend in survival mode.
5 ways putting yourself first makes a difference
When you tend to your inner Self (instead of just focusing on your physical self) and decide to put yourself first:
You use every challenge or frustration to grow your inner Self.
You strengthen your relationship with thriving and learn to trust that your answers live in your Infinite Self. This means the answers you need are already inside of you.
You release burdens and pave your way to a freedom you may have been yearning for most of your life.
You realize that your greatest purpose is to be a healthy place through which life can flow.
You model for others a more profound notion of self-care.
Of course, this list is only the beginning. Review it again and think of three ways putting yourself first would improve your life and the lives of your loved ones. Let your mind run free without putting any limits on yourself.
Then, start practicing putting yourself first and being the love of your life. You’ll live with more personal power, make choices that are right for you, and allow others to care for themselves too.
Tina Lifford plays Aunt Vi on the critically acclaimed television show, Queen Sugar. The Little Book of Big Lies: A Journey Into Inner Fitness is her first book; released by Harper Collins, November 2019, and is full of the kind of internal “actions” that will transform your thinking and your life. Are you ready to intentionally put yourself first? SELF365 gives you a safe space to practice a better relationship with yourself. Open Enrollment ends May 19th.