Why It’s OK to Put Yourself First

This week, let’s use the Thanksgiving holiday to show ourselves some appreciation.

I want you to flashback to the last time you flew on a commercial airline – specifically, the safety demonstration. After reviewing how the masks will dispense from overhead in case of a lack of cabin pressure, the flight attendants walk us through how to fasten them – and then remind us all to secure our masks before assisting anyone around us. That “you first” mentality can be challenging for many of us, but why?

Life happens. You need to pay the bills. You need to take care of your family. And so you work overtime, maybe even multiple jobs – evenings and weekends included. Perhaps you’re also trying to finish your degree. For those with children – single and married – you’re doing everything and anything to provide the best life you possibly can for your kids. I know because I did it and every day I work with women and men who are doing the same thing. We put everyone else’s needs before our own – our kids, employers, co-workers – the list goes on. In the process, we are left depleted of many of the qualities and abilities we need to fulfill our responsibilities.

But how do you fix it? The kids have needs, so does your employer. The answer lies in those needs. What do kids truly need? A safe environment, good food and clean water. Do they need new sneakers or the latest trendy clothing? No. Your employer needs you to perform your work with maximum effort to the best of your abilities. Does he/she need you to comply with every single unreasonable request? No. These are desires. Needs of others shouldn’t be overlooked, but if you’re sacrificing some of your own needs – a full night of sleep, nutritious meals, etc. – to provide for the desires of others, your thinking is short-term.

So let’s revisit where we started – the airline. Why is the announcement of helping yourself first so important? You aren’t going to be able to help anyone else if you’ve passed out. My point is that the same is true in life – if you’re so selfless and focused on everyone else’s needs, chances are you’re sacrificing something for yourself. That’s not so bad in moderation, but don’t let it get out of control. Ultimately a “myself first” mentality leads to better care of those around you – so what some may call selfish, can ultimately be selfless.