Make Yourself a Priority: 4 Ways Putting Yourself First Lets You Better Serve Others

youbuttonAs a child and even now, the most stressful part of my birthday party (or really any gift-giving event) was always trying to perfect my reaction as I unwrapped a present.

I should be surprised and grateful and gracious and pleased and happy, but not too happy and…

Talk about too much to worry about!

I’d much rather be the one giving the gift. And so, ever since I learned to care about what other people think, I’ve decided to spend as much time as possible as the gift-giver instead of the gift-receiver. And I love it.

Giving a good gift is one of those top 5 good feelings in life, for sure. I can’t think of much that beats the sensation of seeing someone burst into a real smile and sense of “how did you…” when they open that just-right gift I’ve selected specifically for their pleasure.

Unfortunately, the feeling doesn’t last.

Like all ties to tangible possessions, the feeling of elation that comes from purposely pleasing someone fades too quickly for “the act of giving” alone to be a sustainable sense of fulfillment.

I’ve been told (in a bad way) that I’m too nice and I’ve been referred to read The Disease to Please, but until recently I refused to believe that a love for giving was anything to worry about. I turned down different perspectives at every opportunity.

But recently, my private life turned to shambles. Recently, I realized that I’d completely lost a sense of who I am. Recently, I began to question my disease to please all on my own.


In a way, pleasing others is an easy way to ignore our self. We can fill our mind with the fantasy… Maybe caring so much for others means that our self-contentedness is so great that we can afford to spare all that time thinking about, and tending to, others. Maybe not.

Although making our loved ones and even strangers smile is a talent to develop and share, we also need to be self-sufficient. I recently realized that I no longer was. The overarching goal of my life depended on making other people happy instead of satisfying my own hopes and dreams.

It’s time for a change. A slight tweaking of my habits…for the sake of my own happiness! Because, after all, I find no one more invigorating than the self-fulfilled human being. And so I’ve devised a simple plan to become that person for my self.

4 Situations in which to Remember to Put Yourself First

1)    At Work

Like many people, I work in a management position, but have no formal management training. At first, I made it work by putting in overtime and bending over backwards to please employees and coworkers in their small requests. Everyone liked me for it.

As I kept saying yes, the requests kept coming in… And soon enough I couldn’t make everyone happy.

When you approach work requests personally like this, people take it personally when you start having to say no. By trying to please everyone, you’re actually setting yourself up for a backlash that can be felt beyond the office.

At work: Put yourself first by applying a reliable structure to your work interventions. By setting the expectations at your work, you can relieve the unnecessary guilt of not being able to please everyone all the time.

The biggest issue with doing personal favours in a work environment is not being able to guarantee a consistent response. When you implement a framework that people can rely upon, they know a turned-down request isn’t the result of a personal vendetta.

Put yourself first by deciding on a structure for your interventions and sticking to it. Your employees and coworkers will be glad to base their expectations on something formal and reliable, building mutual respect and keeping friendships unharmed outside office hours.

2)    In Your Relationship

Love is a catalyst for action. It turns even the shyest among us into serenading casanovas. We plan dates and outings and trips and other, bigger, short and long-term goals when we’re driven by love…

The danger surfaces when our love goals no longer have anything to do with our self, and have everything to do with pleasing the other.

In your relationship: Put yourself first by keeping your individuality alive and thriving even as you become entwined with your partner. You deserve and need as much of your own attention as your partner does.

be happy

Relationships and all the action that goes along with them are time and energy consuming. Other things we engage in, like friends and hobbies that require constant upkeep, are often the first to be put aside to make room for our new passion.

The negative effects of neglecting friends and hobbies creep up on us slowly, over time, so unless we are paying particular attention it’s easy to let the damage grow until it’s near too late. Yet friends and hobbies are a huge part of who we are, individually. If we take these out of our life, what remains of us?

A relationship requires two people to function. Getting consumed in your relationship by focusing on pleasing your partner and neglecting yourself means that two people are working on sustaining only one. The second person, you, becomes lost. Suddenly, the relationship no longer works because you’ve lost one part of the whole.

Put yourself first by knowing and nurturing who you are beyond your relationship. Use some of that love-drive to please yourself, just yourself, without your partner. Have a night out with your friends. Go to that latin dance convention. Never miss your once-a-week French class.

It can be the difference that keeps your individuality satisfied… and when you’re no longer putting pressure on your relationship to be your main source of fulfillment, the love comes more naturally since you love yourself first.

1)    With Friends

As individuals we are constantly evolving as we shape ourselves to an ever finer version of the person we strive to be. As we try to figure our own self out, we also strive to fit in with others. We all have a need for inclusion, and we satisfy this need by having awesome friendships.

The balance between being our self and being included by others can be tricky to manage. When you forgo the things that you want in order to feel included, you can be sure that that balance is out of whack.

With friends: Put yourself first by focusing on friendships that stem naturally from your lifestyle. When you’re surrounded by people who are similar to you, or to the person you strive to become, you no longer need to sacrifice yourself to make the friendships work.

If your best friend insists on eating fast food when you’d rather have a salad, or always wants to go to the movies when you’d rather go for a hike, maybe it’s time to ease out of that friendship. Your friend is probably a great person, but in order to hang around with them you need to make concessions that just don’t fit your lifestyle.

Conceding or simply agreeing too often can cause a real conflict. You can end up resenting yourself or your friend for putting you in situations where you end up going along with things you’d rather not do. Worse, you could lose your sense of who you are if you’re always giving in to other people’s wants and opinions.

It’s when you’re around others that you have the chance to shine and show yourself. If instead you’re going along with certain people because you feel included only when you act like they do, you might want to reconsider those friendships.

Put yourself first by encouraging and developing friendships with people who share your drive and your passions. And as you evolve, let your friendships evolve with you by knowing when to let go. Some friendships last years. A rare few last decades. Some last just a day. The key is to focus on friendships that let you be more, not less, you.

2)    On Your Own

How much time do you devote to yourself each day? Each week? I’m not talking about taking the time to meet your responsibilities like work and friends and school. I’m talking about hanging out with yourself and learning how to make yourself happy.

On your own: Put yourself first by setting a small amount of time aside each day to get in touch with yourself. Ask yourself what makes you happy. Reevaluate your priorities. Just be with yourself and see how you’re doing, really. Then set aside time each week to do at least 2 of the things that you know have the biggest impact on your personal happiness.

Sounds like a lot of time and effort that you just don’t have? Consider my example. Each week I take two hours for myself. For the first, I explore a new part of my city. For the second, I cook myself an extravagant meal. I also take a couple minutes each day to honestly think on 3 questions that lead me to action:

1)     Did I enjoy what I did yesterday?
2)     Am I looking forward to anything today?
3)     Am I being true to myself?

In 2 hours and 35 minutes each week, I get to know myself better and better. This means that each week I know better how to support and be my best, most fulfilled self.

This tiny commitment has the biggest impact on my well-being. It’s in that short amount of time that I can focus on my intrinsic human desire for health and balance and the pursuit of happiness. Find what works for you, and make it a priority to do this for yourself.

Put yourself first by never skipping out on yourself. By keeping a commitment to know and please ourselves, our ability to bring joy into the life of others is dramatically increased. After all, you can’t give what you don’t have.


Your passion for giving is a great reason why people love you. What people might not see though is the self-neglect that too often hides within people who love to please others. Only you can see that in yourself, and if you do, it can be really fun learning how to make yourself happy (without the trap of relying on outside approval).

“By accepting yourself and fully being what you are, your simple presence can make others happy.”  Jane Roberts

Still be the gift-giver, but know that you no longer need to please others to feel that same sense of fulfillment. You can offer that gift to yourself.


About the author

PiaPia is a communications student in Montreal, working double time in public relations and managing a fitness club. She is an editor & contributor on The Feel Good Lifestyle, helping ensure that the killer content on TFGL is presented in the best possible way, so that you get the most out of each post. Email: / Twitter: @pianeruda

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  • Hi Phil an Pia!
    Great article!

  • Just what I needed to hear, thank you!

  • Your observations, intuition & honest thought process are those of a wise & experienced woman. Your advice is certain to have a positive impact on my relationship with myself which in turn will give clarity to my relationships with others – I adore your writing style.

  • Wow Pia, I am very impressed with your article, your ideas and your writing is very inspiring and I can relate to everything!

    Keep it up!

  • Wow! this is great.

  • […] article about the benefits of putting yourself first in order to serve others. Sounds strange, no? Check it out here, she offers some very interesting perspectives to say the […]

  • Wow! Im taking a sigh of relief for two reasons. I have been a pleaser my whole life and often found myself left out and when I try to share my concerns of unhappiness with my partner, he acts like I was just a nuisance. My concerns didnt seem to matter as he simply just couldn’t understand why all his efforts and I was still unhappy.

    I got frustrated and decided with all the love and effort I put towards him and he can’t even begin to understand and be supportive to me in my time of sadness I decided why please him if he can’t see me through? I then discovered I was busy trying to please him and nothing I ever did was enough. My brain finally decided to send me a message which is why not focus on pleasing myself?

    I got up today deciding on working on pleasing me and then in order to further my efforts I went online searching for motivation and found this site. This brings me to my second reason for my sigh of relief. The information on your site “make yourself a priority” page was well written and consistent. I thank you for putting this out there.

    Wow! I guess if my partner decides to break up with me or call me selfish it would make me happy instead of the sadness I thought I’d feel. For 35 years I can now finally relax and stop trying to please the rest of the world, who treats me like an alien when I need support and they couldn’t understand my concerns of unhappiness and unfulfilled from not getting back support from all those I would work so hard to be good to.

    Cheers to me!

  • It’s important for us to put ourselves first for a change! Thanks for sharing.

  • […] article about the benefits of putting yourself first in order to serve others. Sounds strange, no? Check it out here, she offers some very interesting perspectives to say the […]

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