Putting Yourself First

Putting Yourself First

Sarah Riccio

Sometimes life calls for us to be selfless and put others' needs before our own, and sometimes the healthiest thing to do is the exact opposite of that. Putting yourself first isn't always a selfish thing, and is often necessary to maintain personal balance and care. So, let's talk about when it's okay to say "yes" to yourself, and when it's best to put your own needs first.

Keep reading to learn what it means to prioritize self-care, and how to put yourself first in a relationship. 

What Does It Mean to Put Yourself First?

So, is it selfish to put yourself first? Well, putting yourself first isn't about being greedy or ignoring the relationships in your life. Rather, it's about choosing yourself, and making healthy decisions for your personal well-being. Think about it this way: you wouldn't call someone selfish for taking care of themselves, would you? At its core, putting yourself first is about self-care. 

There are many different ways and expressions of putting your needs first, and lots of them are more simple than you may realize. Prioritizing "me time" instead of joining your coworkers for Happy Hour drinks is an easy way to put your own needs first and focus on self-care. Another great habit to adopt is the art of saying, "no." It's not easy to say no (especially when you're talking to someone whose opinion greatly matters to you), but it's an essential skill when it comes to putting yourself first. 

Sometimes we get caught up trying to please everybody, and forget about our own well-being in the process. If you've ever reluctantly agreed to work a double-shift when you have period cramps, or promised to attend Christmas Eve parties in five different neighborhoods, you know what I'm talking about. And while it can be tempting to make everyone happy, doing so at the expense of your own mental and emotional well-being can be damaging. 

That's why learning to say "yes" to yourself is just as valuable as learning to say "no" to others. So, let's talk a bit more about what it means to say yes to yourself, and look at some concrete examples you can try starting today!

It's Okay To Say Yes To Yourself 

The concept of saying "yes" to yourself is less about indulgence and more about self-care. In maintaining interpersonal balance, it's essential to learn how to establish boundaries, communicate effectively, and celebrate your achievements. Let's discuss how to put yourself first in relationships using these techniques. 

  • Establish Boundaries. Setting boundaries for yourself is key to maintaining a healthy relationship, both personally and with others. Take some time to determine what those boundaries look like for you by asking yourself questions. Are there forms of intimacy you're not comfortable with? Are there certain times of the day or week when you need privacy? Are there any specific triggers you need your partner to be aware of? Once you've established a new boundary, be sure to clearly communicate with your partner. 
  • Communicate Effectively. You've probably heard this before, but communication is key in healthy relationships. That's not to say that you have to share every internal thought that pops into your mind, but verbally expressing your wants, needs, and boundaries is necessary in maintaining a balanced and happy relationship. If you're not sure how to communicate effectively with your partner, couple's therapy can be a great help. But for now, keep these tips in mind:
  • Tell the truth. If you're having a conversation with your partner (or anyone, for that matter), be honest. Otherwise, you're likely to talk in circles and leave issues unresolved. Besides, the truth has a way of coming out eventually, anyway! So, the next time you're feeling mad and your partner asks you, "Are you mad?" Say yes. Set the stage for open, honest communication. 
  • Feel it all. When communicating with a partner, relative, or even yourself, try to allow yourself to be present in what you're feeling and thinking. Try not to shy away. Are you feeling hurt or happy? Nervous or calm? Leaning into your emotions can help you tap into the root of them. 
  • Get specific. Citing specific examples in conversation is a great way to communicate more effectively. For example, if you're trying to tell your partner why you're upset with them, don't just say, "I'm upset with you." Instead, try getting specific with what, exactly, they did to upset you. This can cut through a lot of back and forth, and help your partner to be more mindful in the future. 
  • Celebrate your achievements. When you've successfully put yourself first by establishing boundaries, don't forget to give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. Prioritizing self-care and putting yourself first is not always easy, so take some time to acknowledge the effort you put into yourself. Some great ways to give yourself positive reinforcement are to recite affirmations, or treat yourself to something special! 

Putting Yourself First In A Romantic Relationship 

Now that you know more about what it means to put yourself first, let's look at some specific examples within the context of a romantic relationship. Because we want to please our partners, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of focusing on their every need at the sake of our own. So, let's look at some concrete ways to put yourself first in a romantic relationship. 

  • If it feels bad, don't do it. Sometimes you have to take a step back to really evaluate how you feel. If something in your relationship dynamic feels hurtful, it's time to talk about it.
  • Don't go out of your way. Going "above and beyond the call of duty" isn't always an admirable, healthy thing. In fact, sometimes it just stretches us too thin! If you're repeatedly being asked to go out of your way to please your partner, it's okay to say no.
  • Grow together. Seeking couple's counseling is a great way to put yourself first while also prioritizing the relationship. If therapy is not accessible to you, try setting aside a certain time every week to connect and communicate with your partner.
  • Don't cancel on yourself. If you've made some solo plans for yourself, try to keep them! If your partner asks if you're free to make dinner, but you've already scheduled some me-time, don't be afraid to answer honestly. Obviously, there are exceptions in cases of emergency, but chances are they'll understand and respect your decision to enjoy some self-care.