Who knew that putting yourself first could feel so hard? For most of my life I struggled with putting myself first. I would feel really guilty about saying no to someone or would feel like I always had to go above and beyond when I helped someone. In general, I got into the habit of putting myself second, third or even last. There were times where I tried to convince myself that not putting myself first wasn’t so bad and that it was even selfless. I told myself that taking care of me first was selfish and didn’t the world need less selfish people. Turns out I was dead wrong about my interpretations of what it meant to put myself first. Putting myself first not only helps me but improves the quality of my relationships with other people. Below are some ways that putting yourself first is good for you.
1. Healthier lifestyle. Putting yourself first means that your health comes first. Imagine if someone told you that if you continued to work long, stressful and crazy hours at your job that you would shave off decades of your life. Would you listen to this feedback and change your life or continue to work, long, stressful hours? What if someone told you that if you took the time to get regular and consistent sleep every day, that you would look and feel younger for decades to come. Would you follow through and get more sleep or continue to sacrifice your sleep for other priorities? When you don’t take care of yourself, you are causing your body stress, pain and even lowering your immune system! There is research out there that shows that maintaining a stressful lifestyle could cause temporary spikes in your blood pressure! If these temporary spikes in your blood pressure occur often then you could potentially damage your heart and kidneys. Put yourself first and a fantastic place to start is with your health. Take the time to exercise regularly, sleep more and eat the right foods. Take a break when you need one. Find healthy ways to manage your stress. Make these habits into a routine that lasts a lifetime. You will never regret making your health a priority.
2. Your career could improve. You might mistakenly believe that you must work harder and longer to be productive at work and make a difference. There is evidence that supports that you are most productive when you find a good balance between being productive and focusing more on your own needs. When you try to be productive all the time and feel tired, stressed and exhausted as a result, that doesn’t leave much room for creativity, innovation and for ideas to flow. You also might be working when you are exhausted but the quality of your work goes down. Have you ever noticed that the quality of your work improves when you feel well-rested and clear-headed? Also, you are more likely to solve problems more effectively when you give yourself time to rest. The reason you might always find a solution to a very hard problem the moment you get a break, is because you are allowing your mind the space to think creatively and explore different solutions to a problem. You will find it much more difficult to be an effective worker when you feel exhausted all the time. Put yourself first and take a break. Your career may be important to you right now, but don’t allow your job to take priority over your own life. You will probably see your career flourish when you give yourself a break. Your colleagues and boss might thank you for taking time to prioritize yourself when you come into work with a smile rather than an exhausted, I hate Mondays kind of look.
3. Your relationships will improve. You might believe that because you do so much for others all the time that these are an indicator of how well your relationships are going. Truthfully, you might be coming across the wrong way by always seeming busy, exhausted and tired all the time. Your friends and family want to see you happy and taking care of yourself. Although you might always find the time to see your loved ones, you might not be able to give them the best version of yourself. They might be used to you always seeming tired, overwhelmed and not really in the right head space for a catch up. When you make time for yourself, you can be present in your relationships. Relationships are all about quality rather than quantity. Even in a romantic relationship you need to give each other healthy amounts of space at times. Your partner will be happy to see you pursuing your own interests, enjoying life and the healthy glow that a good night of rest provides. You might also find that your relationship improves because you have more time for date nights and real emotional and physical intimacy with your partner. Always feeling stressed and tired is not going to bring you closer to your partner. The best way to maintain a healthy and strong relationship with your loved ones is by putting yourself first.
4. You can appreciate the moment. You only have one life and if you are missing out on the good stuff because you are putting everyone and everything else before you, then you need to assess if this is how you want the rest of your life to go. The great stuff in life is happening right now, all around you and at your fingertips. But when you choose to work harder and prioritize everything and everyone else over you, you miss the moments where you can truly enjoy your life. You could spend today taking time to read a book, exercise during a beautiful sunny day, traveling to a new city, discovering a new restaurant or spending quality time with your partner. There’s so many wonderful things you could be doing right now to enjoy the present and increase the quality of your life. Making time for yourself reminds you to take a step back and enjoy what’s happening right this very moment. Your time on this Earth is limited so grasp the wonderful moments as they come.
5. Your self-esteem will improve. Getting into the habit of putting yourself first will show you firsthand how important it is to take care of yourself. One of the reasons you may struggle with self-esteem is because you have gotten accustomed to putting your needs before others. When you prioritize your needs first, you will notice that your confidence improves. It will be much easier to say no to requests that you can’t manage effectively. You will make time for yourself without feeling guilt or wondering if you will disappoint someone. Even more importantly, you will see the value of making time for yourself. It will be easier to say no to catching up with a friend because you know you will be tired and not present. You will see the value in rescheduling when you feel more relaxed.
6. You can invest in yourself. The best investment is the one where you invest in yourself. When you put yourself first, you make time for the interests, hobbies and opportunities that you are interested in. You will have time to take a comedy class. There will be more time to paint artwork during the weekends. You can read that book you have been dying to check out for ages. There will be more opportunities to hit the gym. You will have time to take that interesting course that will help you develop in your career. You will find time to go back to school again. There will be more time to send your resume out and start a path for a new career. When you don’t put yourself first, you have less time to invest in yourself. You may find that you are expending your energy trying to work too hard and help too many people, and find that you don’t even have time to pursue your own life goals and interests. Put yourself first and invest in yourself.
Remember that it’s all about quality and not quantity. When you focus on being a happier you, you can be present in your relationships, a more effective worker and can take time to relax and focus on your own interests! It may be tough to start, but take it step by step and start focusing on you.