What it really means to put ourselves first

It is a formula that, in its simplicity, always seems to us correct and acceptable, right beyond any reasonable doubt. Putting ourselves first, or choosing to place ourselves at the centre of our life. It’s almost obvious, right? Yet it is a choice that underlies a philosophy of life that often comes into conflict with other things we believe in, and for this reason, we often find ourselves unable to put it into practice. Although it is absolutely the way of life that more than any other guarantees us satisfaction and well-being, although in a simplistic way we can feel it as perfectly adherent to us, we often fail to live in the sign of this conviction and this leads us to difficult situations. to manage, in which understanding how to feel good is objectively difficult.

What does it mean, deep down, to put ourselves first? There can be many ways this position can be simplified. If we were to choose one, we could safely say that:

Putting ourselves first means aligning most of our choices with our needs and well-being

It means living and acting in the name of what we need as a person, to feel good and to best realize our character, our personality. “The main task of man in life is to give birth to himself”, said the influential twentieth-century psychologist Erich Fromm. It means that, as the main task, it must come before everything else. Perfectly logical, isn’t it? But if it’s that simple, why do we so often find ourselves in situations where what we want is so contrary to what makes us feel good? Toxic romantic relationships, jobs that prevent us from achieving our fulfilment, relationships with family members that trap us … why, if it seems so logical to put ourselves first, does it happen so often that we do things and end up in situations that make us feel bad?

It happens because we don’t realize that fully embracing this simple concept means unhinging some instinctive beliefs that often guide our actions in a stronger way than our natural propensity to live well. There can be many examples, linked to the world of love, family and work, in which in fact we often think that something else actually comes before us, and that therefore we must subordinate our well-being to that something else. Said like this it seems senseless, and instead, it is what we often do in the name of a value, of something we believe in and that we place in an even more important position than ourselves.

We are our needs: Maslow’s pyramid

If we truly believe that we, our well-being and our needs come before everything else, it automatically means that nothing must come before them. And that every time we choose to sacrifice our well-being in the name of something, we do it only in an exceptional, conscious and completely temporary way, perhaps in the name of achieving a long-term well-being goal. But how many times do we put something else first, and in this way we put our well-being in the background, in the name of something we believe even more in? Let’s take some examples:

  • When we are convinced that pure love does not ask for anything in return: it is the most frequent “cognitive trap”, also because it too, in this formulation, is presented as a statement with which it is difficult to disagree. Instead, this statement implies the idea that we enter into a relationship of love only because guided by a supreme feeling stronger than anything else, and not because that relationship of love, and love itself, are things we need to do. feel good and fulfil ourselves as individuals. If we see love as something we feel to get better, when the love relationship becomes a source of discomfort and no longer resolvable, it becomes difficult for us to see it as an obstacle to our well-being, because we put the concept of love, and not our well-being. And we end up getting entangled in spite of making us feel bad. If on the contrary, we always keep in mind that what we do must always serve to feel good as people, it is easier to see the sources of pain (as a toxic love relationship can be) as elements to be removed, under pain of our well-being and our life. Putting ourselves first means being very careful when we choose to have the person we love come first and foremost, including us.
  • When work dictates the law on our life: this happens to us often, and it is usually a difficult dynamic to resolve. In modern society, working is necessary to live, therefore we happen to stop seeing work as an activity that serves to give us the economic stability necessary to live well (this is the vision that always keeps us in the first place) and we begin to see it as a component of life to which everything else is subordinate: free time, presence with the people we love, personal passions, life plans. When we struggle to realize that work is no longer a tool for living better but has become an obstacle to our well-being, it is often because we have really forgotten what it means to be at the centre of our life.
  • When the family dimension monopolizes our existence: this is something that happens to many of us, sooner or later. When the first child arrives, or when we have parents who are too controlling, or when a family member has health problems. Very often these are more than valid reasons to put ourselves in the background for a moment, of course: a small child has needs that only a parent can respond to, so that becomes the first priority of every new parent; a sick parent often only has children to rely on, so that becomes a good child’s first priority at that time. The point is, in fact, to be aware that this should always be an exceptional situation, with a limited duration. Because a child will soon get old enough to allow us to make room for ourselves as people again, because a parent with long-term health problems needs ongoing professional help, which cannot be that of a child who sacrifices his or her life for years. The family, be it the one we come from or the one we have built, is often our first thought in the priorities of life, and this is quite natural. We just have to be careful when it takes up all the space and becomes a source of discomfort and dissatisfaction for us, because that is the moment in which we must commit ourselves to fight intelligently the things we believe in and remember that we must always keep in mind what it is. right for us, for our well-being. Taking back our space, gradually and with respect for everyone, a little at a time which cannot be that of a child who sacrifices his life for years. The family, be it the one we come from or the one we have built, is often our first thought in the priorities of life, and this is quite natural. We just have to be careful when it takes up all the space and becomes a source of discomfort and dissatisfaction for us, because that is the moment in which we must commit ourselves to fight intelligently the things we believe in and remember that we must always keep in mind what it is. right for us, for our well-being. Taking back our space, gradually and with respect for everyone, a little at a time which cannot be that of a child who sacrifices his life for years. The family, be it the one we come from or the one we have built, is often our first thought in the priorities of life, and this is quite natural. We just have to be careful when it takes up all the space and becomes a source of discomfort and dissatisfaction for us, because that is the moment in which we must commit ourselves to fight intelligently the things we believe in and remember that we must always keep in mind what it is. right for us, for our well-being. Taking back our space, gradually and with respect for everyone, a little at a time and this is quite natural. We just have to be careful when it takes up all the space and becomes a source of discomfort and dissatisfaction for us, because that is the moment in which we must commit ourselves to fight intelligently the things we believe in and remember that we must always keep in mind what it is. right for us, for our well-being. Taking back our space, gradually and with respect for everyone, a little at a time and this is quite natural. We just have to be careful when it takes up all the space and becomes a source of discomfort and dissatisfaction for us, because that is the moment in which we must commit ourselves to fight intelligently the things we believe in and remember that we must always keep in mind what it is. right for us, for our well-being. Taking back our space, gradually and with respect for everyone, a little at a time

The important message to assimilate is: that sometimes, in certain short-lived situations, it is natural to put our well-being in the background in the name of something that we consider greater, such as a great love, a family or a work situation. But we must regularly bring our mind back to our goals of personal fulfilment and always think about how that given situation fits within our life path (which by assumption, if we are people who function mentally and emotionally in a healthy way, always tends to objectives of well-being, the satisfaction of our needs and fulfilment). And when there is a misalignment between what we are experiencing and our well-being, we are always called to make a choice: to choose us, to choose to put us first, it always means saying “no” to others, to situations that represent obstacles to our path. If we are unable to do this, it is because, knowingly or unknowingly, there is something else that has a more important position in our life than ourselves. So no, in those moments we are no longer in the first place.

Recognizing these difficult moments and getting out of them following our natural propensity to live well, listening to our emotions, interpreting our needs and connecting our motivations to our life goals, is the main field in which a life coach works. So if you feel that your life is tight on you, that the situations you experience every day are having a negative impact on your well-being, perhaps you may need the help of a good life coach. Contact me to find out how you can realign life in the name of what it takes to stay healthy.