Is it selfish to put yourself first?

Embracing life, selfish
Whether it’s friends, family, co-workers or sometimes even a stranger – do you take other peoples problems seriously, and do the best you can to help and make them feel better?

Are you a healer, a sympathiser, somebody’s shoulder to cry on?

Many of us fall into this category, we’re the ‘helpers’, the people who cannot stand to see others in distress, we feel things deeply and we genuinely want to help.

Other people are important to us and we spend most of our time putting them first.

That’s why what I’m going to say next might seem slightly wrong.


It’s that simple. And no, it’s definitely not selfish – in fact, it’s anything but, and here’s why:

You know in aeroplanes, when they do the safety demonstration, and they say ‘You must fit your own mask before helping others’? Well I think that’s a pretty good analogy for life really.

In order to help other people, you need to be solid within yourself, you need to be reliable to yourself, and most of all you need to be happy with yourself.

For us ‘helpers’ there’s nothing worse than the feeling that we’ve failed somebody. This can happen if you try to take on too much without having a break, if you listen to too much negativity or get too caught up in somebody else’s unhappiness. Before you know it, you’re down in the dumps, you’ve no more capacity and you have to shut yourself off for a while.

You’ve gone from the desired position of ‘amazing, caring friend’ to ‘frazzled, miserable recluse’ and I think we both know; that’s not what you were aiming for.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be superwoman and help people out all the time, it’s a lovely notion – it’s just not feasible, we’re not designed to be wearing our underpants on the outside!

Think about all the ways you want to be a good friend. Think about how important that is to you, and how you want to make others feel.

Now honestly answer this question: Are you not worth the same love and attention too?

Of course you are. And in fact, you are the one who should be receiving it first and foremost.

How can you possibly give the best of yourself to other people, if you don’t spend time cultivating personal happiness for yourself? It’s a no brainer. It sounds so simple when you think of it like this – and that’s because it is.

Be kind to yourself, value yourself, and make sure you put yourself first. We all need a break from time to time. And nobody will think any worse of you for taking one.

In actual fact, you’ll be more rested, relaxed, happy and better equipped to help the people you love.

Putting yourself first can come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, but here are some tips to help you stay on top form:


This one is probably the most important! You get out what you put in, so in order to keep your mind fully functioning and keep your body ache and pain free – eat healthily and keep your body moving. You wouldn’t expect your car to keep running perfectly if you didn’t service it and keep the tank topped up would you?

A healthy diet and regular exercise is also amazing for combatting stress. Maybe this could be one of your rituals – a couple of mornings or evenings every week, where you set aside time for exercise you enjoy, and that time doesn’t change. Mix it up too, you don’t have to do the same routine all the time, play around with it, exercise can be fun! Make a tennis date with a friend, go for a swim, do some aerobic videos in the house, do what you enjoy.


You are not a machine. You are a living organism that is constantly regenerating and in order to do this you need sleep. If that means cancelling late night plans then so be it – you’ll feel much happier in the morning when you wake up fresh and ready for the day ahead.


You do it for other people, but now it’s time to treat yourself like a friend. Make some time for you, do something you love, something that puts a smile on your face.

This could be any of the following, and much, much more:

  • Practise a cleansing meditation
  • Sit down with a good book
  • Cook something you’ve never tried to make before
  • Go for a beautiful walk
  • Take in an exhibition
  • Have a massage

There are literally hundreds of things you could do – and I bet you suggest them to other people all the time?

Take a leaf out of your own book. Be a good friend to yourself. Put yourself first and you will see how much easier it is to be there (physically, emotionally and mentally) for the people you care about.

They will get the best out of you, and so will you.

Remember – it’s not selfish to put your needs first, ultimately it’s the most caring thing you can do.

If you feel ready to put yourself first, come and join us at the next Deep Pause Retreat in Cornwall in June. Visit for more information.

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About the author

Danielle is an international board level coach, consultant and facilitator, with more than 10 years experience working with people in over 20 different countries. She is one of 200 coaches in the UK to hold the ICF PCC accreditation, and was the Asia MD of both a pioneering coaching company (Coach In A Box) and an award-winning consultancy (Bridge Partnerships). After recovering from her own enforced pause she set about creating The Pause, a series of retreats, workshops and coaching for people on the brink of burnout. Danielle understands that in an age of constant movement, nothing is more essential than slowing down to press pause.

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