This Is What Putting Yourself First Looks Like In Real Terms

Healthy relationships are not built on compromise and selflessness, no matter what you’ve been told. If you don’t put yourself first, you will not have anything to give your partner or anyone else because you will be in a constant state of emotional depletion. Here’s how to put yourself first so that you are able to have happy, fulfilling relationships:

  1. Set boundaries. It can be hard to establish boundaries, whether it’s with a partner, a family member, or a friend, but you will not feel secure until you do. There are many different types of boundaries, such as how much PDA you’re comfortable with, which values you are not willing to compromise, and how you want to be treated during conflict. Your choice of boundaries is based on your unique set of needs. Setting them will ensure that your relationships are built on respect and communication.
  2. Have a morning routine. There will always be too many bullet points on the to-do list, and you probably choose to skip the ones that involve self-care. Going to the gym or taking a bath seems trivial compared to a work deadline or the dinner you have planned with friends. At some point, you’ll look back on your week and realize you’ve neglected yourself entirely. Having a solid morning routine will ensure that this doesn’t happen. Set your alarm and create a routine based on your needs. It could include meditation, making coffee, journaling, taking a leisurely bath–whatever fills your heart with peace and contentment. Make that time sacred. Even half an hour is enough to re-center yourself.
  3. Set aside time for your mental and physical health. You don’t have to meditate for hours every day to achieve inner calm. Maybe you get there by going for a run or cooking a meal. Maybe you just need a nap. Whatever it is, listen to your mind and body. When they’re telling you that they’re overwhelmed or neglected, pay attention. If you’re stressed and don’t take time to replenish yourself, you’ll hit a wall. Feeding your mind and body with healthy activities is more efficient in the long run because it prevents burn-out.
  4. Advocate for yourself. It’s easier to back down and accept defeat when someone upsets you, but being passive will not make things easier in the end. When someone misinterprets you or asks for too much, tell them how you feel. If your boss asks you to work late for the fourth day in a row, you owe it to yourself to express frustration. If your partner says something unkind or expects you to wash the dishes every night, you should confront them. Putting yourself first means advocating for yourself even when it’s uncomfortable.
  5. Turn down invitations. If you’re a people-pleaser, you probably say yes to every opportunity for fear of offending anyone. Alternatively, you may accept invitations because you suffer from a fear of missing out. But saying no to things yields its own kind of joy. When you turn down invitations, it frees you up to spend time doing what you actually want to do, such as watching a movie in your pajamas or going to the gym. It also means that you’ll enjoy the events that you do attend because you won’t be burnt out from going to unfulfilling ones. When it comes to social engagements, you should always strive for quality over quantity.
  6. Only cultivate relationships with people who add to your life. Consider the people who you spend time with. Do they contribute to your life or subtract from it? Do they bring positive energy or leave you feeling negative, misunderstood, or lonely? Maybe you’re going out with someone who makes you feel insecure or your friends never seem to have anything good to say about anyone. It’s hard to let go of personal relationships, especially the long-standing ones, but sometimes you have to if you want to grow in a positive direction. Surrounding yourself with people who bring joy and inspiration to your life is one of the most effective methods of putting yourself first.
  7. Create affirmations. Many of us underestimate the power of our inner narrative. How we speak to ourselves dictates how we think and feel about ourselves, and, by extension, how we let others treat us. Having daily affirmations that you repeat to yourself will re-frame your self-image. It may feel awkward at first, but studies show that affirmations can help people with depression and low self-esteem, and boost people’s performance at work. Being kind to yourself and focusing on your strengths will give you the confidence and self-assurance to take on even the most daunting tasks.
  8. Take stock. With so many things to think about on a daily basis, it’s easy to lose perspective. You’re so busy working out the day-to-day crises that you don’t have time to see how far you’ve come or how much you want to change. Finding a way to see the big picture will help you strategize your self-care regimen. Journaling works for some. By writing down your thoughts and feelings, you will be able to process your day, your interactions with people, and your feelings in a judgment-free zone. You can vent your frustrations and celebrate your wins without worrying about what other people will think. Journaling helps you reset your heart and mind and gain perspective on your life.
  9. Find a solid friend group. It feels like it’s never been harder to make adult friendships. In a post-pandemic world where remote work, dating apps, and social media have turned all social interactions virtual, meeting new people can seem too daunting to even attempt. Why not just find a romantic partner and call it a day? But having friends is crucial not only to your overall happiness, but also to your health. Studies show that strong social connections help prevent long-term health issues and alleviate stress, grief, and trauma. While romantic partners are an important part of many people’s lives, friendships play a different and crucial role.
  10. Organize your space. No matter how chaotic and busy your life feels, you have control over your home. Organizing and decorating your house will give you a place that feels personal, comfortable, and safe. Whatever the world throws at you, you will have a sanctuary to return to where you can relax and be at peace. Research shows that clutter can lead to tension, lack of focus, and an increase in depression. In contrast, cleaning promotes a positive mindset and a sense of well-being.

How putting yourself first affects your romantic relationships

  1. You are more present. This may seem paradoxical–how can you be more present with your partner if you’re focusing on yourself? But when you take care of your own needs and feel fulfilled from within, you are able to engage with your partner in positive ways and not look to them for constant validation.
  2. You are more fun to be around. When you don’t put yourself first, you are constantly over-extending yourself. You say yes to everything even when you don’t have time or energy for it, and end up exhausted and stressed. When you prioritize your needs, however, you only do what you can afford to do. That gives you the time, energy, and confidence to enjoy life, an attitude that is both attractive and contagious.
  3. You’ll choose the right person. If you’re constantly putting yourself last, you’ll end up with a partner who expects to be put first. You will end up ignoring your needs and desires to fulfill theirs, and find yourself unhappy, underappreciated, and under-valued. When you prioritize your own needs, however, your partner is forced to recognize your worth. You will only attract people who appreciate your value.


Rose Nolan is a writer and editor from Austin, TX who focuses on all things female and fabulous. You can find her geeking out about the latest film releases or stunning crowds with her endless capacity for celebrity trivia. If you can’t find her, she’s probably eating tacos.