This is a topic very close to my heart. It is something that I have struggled with and continue to work through in my personal life. There are so many adverse things that happen when you put others before yourself. In this article, I have plucked a few that my own clients have contended with and offered some insight about how you might be feeling if this resonates.

It is ‘normal’ to put others before yourself

Growing up, you may have had various examples that putting others before yourself was the right thing to do. You may have seen it with a parental figure or the advertising you were exposed to. Unfortunately not much has changed over the years. 

It seems that women have fought for their rights to be equal to men however, the men have not been told to do anything different. (That is a generalized statement but for this short post, I will be focussing on women. They seem to be the ones who struggle with this the most in my experience.)

Limiting templates

History has dictated that a ‘woman’s place is in the home.’ Women are the organisers and women therefore often carry the burden to put everyone else’s needs above their own. This tends to happen more once children are in the picture. Advertising says that to be a good mother, you need to be able to do everything. That your children are your world.

I have always struggled with this. As much as children are a blessing and great etc, without you prioritizing your needs, you will not be the best version of yourself for them. That ‘best version’ can be demonstrated in your temper, your patience, your happiness, anything that makes you, you.

Why you put others before yourself 

If the word “should” is commonly used in your vocabulary it is because of these terrible templates that you were provided as a young person. The goal here is to break free from these and be more in line with the thoughts of today’s world. 

“If we’re not attuned to who we are and what we want, we can start to make sacrifices that don’t just hurt or limit us, but actually negatively impact those we care for.” – Dr Lisa Firestone

A philosophical view

Socrates gave two injunctions: Care for oneself and know oneself. He understood that caring for ourselves is to exhibit an attitude towards ourselves. It is also to exhibit an attitude towards others and the world. That we attend to our own thoughts and attitudes in self-reflection and meditation. To engage in ascetic practices aimed at realising an ideal state of being.

Maintaining a certain regard for ourselves and engaging in self-compassion and self-care are actually fundamental to creating a good life. A good life for ourselves and the people who matter most to us.

What happens when you put others before yourself

When you are trying to ‘have it all’ you end up with nothing left for you. Here are some examples of what happens when you put others before yourself. 

  1. Losing your sense of self – what makes you happy, who you are, what you want to do.
  2. Giving them your power – they are in control of your decisions.
  3. You can’t make yourself happy – prolonged giving to others leaves you with nothing left, leading to burnout or depression.
  4. Negative thinking – everything is difficult. When you look at solutions, you always have a ‘reason’ why it won’t work. You stop looking at the bigger picture.
  5. Being unfulfilled – blaming others and other things for you not being happy. You have to take control of that for yourself. No one else can do this for you.

What can you do to put yourself first

If you find yourself recognising your own behaviour patterns in this list, it is time for you to reset. Take a step back from your life and recognise what makes you unhappy. Rather than creating excuses as to why something will not happen, try to create solutions. 

Carve out some time for yourself at the beginning of each day for silent contemplation. This is when you check-in with yourself and decide what would make you happy today. 

It will become a self-fulfilling prophecy for you to put others before yourself unless you can take this step back to review. 

Puja K McClymont – Certified Life Coach in London and NLP Practitioner

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