Putting Yourself First Isn’t Selfish — It’s Smart

There’s a lot of pressure on us to be self-sacrificing in relationships, at work, and in life in general. It’s natural to want to go above and beyond for people and things you care about, but at a certain point, you have to put yourself first. Being selfish isn’t a bad thing, though — it’s actually one of the smartest and healthiest things you can do for yourself.

  1. You’re the only one who will never leave your side. You’re not a bad person for wanting to work on yourself first. After all, relationships — romantic or otherwise — come and go. The only person who’s guaranteed to never leave you in the dust is, well, you. You live with yourself every day, so why shouldn’t you be your number one priority?
  2. No one else is going to do the work for you. You’ve got to put in the time to shape your life according to your own goals and dreams because that’s what being an adult means. You can’t give up your time to others and hope that somehow, your selflessness or sheer luck will mean everything works out in the end. That’s just not a realistic trade-off and it’s not something that should be expected of you. If you want something, work for it and don’t worry about whether or not anyone else is on board.
  3. It’s good to have goals. Having something (or several things) worth striving for is never something to be ashamed of. While you obviously aren’t a self-centered person with no care for the world around you, you’re also not really all that selfish for busting your ass to achieve the things that are important to you. It’s what makes you a fulfilled, well-rounded individual, which is what will make you much more interesting as a friend/partner.
  4. It can be selfless to be selfish. You’re becoming a better you in order to someday be a better person to those you encounter in the world. If you’re able to be the happy, healthy, satisfied self that you dream of becoming, you’ll be able to help out the people around you in your fullest capacity. You’ve got to take the long view and look at it as a journey, instead of a stop.
  5. Sometimes you need it. Say you’re up for the same promotion as a work buddy of yours. What’s technically selfish in this situation? Is it wrong of you to put your hat in the ring for something you’ve worked hard for, just because you know your friend’s trying for it too? Sometimes you need to focus on changing the idea of “selfishness” into the mindset of prioritizing yourself.
  6. You can’t help anyone else unless you help yourself. You know the whole “put your oxygen mask on first” thing? It applies everywhere. There’s no way you can be a good friend or partner or sister or girlfriend if you’re not taking care of yourself first. That’s a vital part of the process, and you can’t neglect it to let other people’s needs run your life. That’s just a path that’ll leave you exhausted and unable to contribute anything in your relationships.
  7. You only have so many resources. It takes a lot to run your own life. You know this, because you’re doing it right now. You have to prioritize what is an absolute need and what can be set aside for a little while. This might mean taking a step back from being so involved in a loved one’s life while you take care of your own. It might be hard to do in the moment, but once you’ve gotten yourself back on track, you can give a little more of yourself. For now, though, you’ve got to delegate a little.
  8. There has to be a balance. It’s possible to lean so hard in one direction that you’d eventually veer into selfish territory, but you shouldn’t let the fear of that happening keep you from trying to put yourself first. You can count on yourself to check in every so often and be sure that you’re still giving the people you care about the kind of love you’d like them to get from you. If you feel yourself getting off-course, you can always regroup.
  9. You won’t always be able to spend so much time on you. There will come a time when you’re unable to put yourself first in the day-to-day grind. Maybe it’ll be a demanding work project, a partner who gets sick, or having a kid. Hell, even the responsibility of a new puppy means you can’t be as self-focused as you used to. You’re allowed to be selfish right now because your life has the space for it. It’s okay to take advantage of this time however you need.
  10. The double standard is crazy. What qualifies as “selfish” can depend a lot on the circumstance, but it’s also something that seems to change depending on gender. Men are never considered “selfish” for focusing on getting ahead in their careers. They’re celebrated for being high achievers. Women, on the other hand, have to deal with a lot of negative stereotypes for doing the exact same thing. You’re not a cold, heartless bitch for having the drive to better yourself. Getting over the mental roadblock of that double standard can be hard, though.
Becca Rose is a writer with high hopes for her student loan debt. She's a musician and aspiring novelist, but don't ask her to write poetry, because she's terrible at it. She has written for HelloGiggles, The Toast, The Huffington Post, and more. You can find her on Twitter @bookbeaut