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Why putting yourself first isn't selfish

I don't know about you, but at times I've been very guilty of neglecting my own needs and putting everyone else's first. Do I know that I'll end up suffering because of it? Hell yes, but for some reason it still happens. Definitely not as much as it used to, and nowadays when I catch myself in a situation where my needs are at the back of the queue, I do something about it.


The type of things I used to end up neglecting were regular exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep, concentrating on my own interests and goals and just spending some time by myself, doing what I wanted, without thinking about anyone else. And it's not something unique to me. The general approach in our society is to be selfless, humble, and to put ourselves last in order to be of service to our work or families. Now, I’m not saying that selflessness and humility aren’t good values to have. Being of service to others by having an impact on their lives is one of the most amazing and rewarding things in life. However when the scales are tipped the wrong way and you're spending more time serving others and very little on looking after yourself, that's when problems arise. You may start feeling resentful that your needs aren't being taken care of and your behaviour towards those around you may change. My poor husband has definitely been on the receiving end of my bad temper when I've felt like all I did was look after him and the kids to ensure they were fed, watered and entertained. Looking back, it was all my own doing. I was trying to be everything to everybody -a martyr- and the only person who was suffering was me.

More often than not in my coaching sessions, 'me time' comes up as an area clients want to work on. Their career or family lives have been demanding and full on, and as a result their needs have been forgotten about. Sometimes it's as straight forward as helping them with scheduling 'me time' into their weekly routine and ensuring plans have been put in place so they're not interrupted. But other times, putting others first has led to clients feeling that they've lost their identity. They don't know who they are and what makes them tick anymore. I make it my mission to support them in rediscovering themselves, to really dig deep and find out what fulfils them, and then working on an action plan to integrate these fulfilment activities into their lives. However, negative mindset can get in the way of making this as straightforward as it could be. That inner critic voice in our heads can pop up and start to plant ideas that we're not worthy of these activities and spending time on ourselves, that we are selfish if we indulge in ourselves!

'Selfish' is such a negative word. In fact the way we need to look at it instead is that we're being 'self-full'. In order for us to look after others to the best of our ability, we need to look after ourselves as best we can first. We need to feel fulfilled. As the saying goes, 'you can't pour from an empty cup'. Another shift we have to make is that spending time on ourselves isn't a 'treat' or 'indulgent'. Look at it as you're 'investing' in yourself, for the good of you as well as of others.


So next time you find yourself feeling guilty that you're having 'me time', say to yourself something like, "I give myself permission to spend time on myself. I am worthy and I deserve to invest this time in me, to feel happy and fulfilled. I can serve others much better if I serve myself first." So what's stopping you? Get that diary out and start blocking out some very important 'me time'.


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