By Deb Rosman

When we are children, we are taught to put other people before ourselves, respect our elders, share our toys etc., and while good manners are important, somehow it also got translated into something contrary. We’ve learned over time to devalue ourselves and our needs. This has led to extremely negative behavior such as—depression and anxiety. This emotional climate has given birth to more narcissists than ever before.

You might want to ask me, “Aren’t you suggesting the practice of narcissist behavior, if you want me and others to put ourselves first?” The answer is no. I am suggesting self-love, whereas the root of narcissism lies is self-doubt and self-loathing and with that, comes the need to artificially inflate oneself by being boastful and manipulating others to see them in a certain way. True self-love requires no validation from any other source.

It took me decades to conclude that I should have been placing my own needs before those of other people all along. The truth of the matter is that when I ignored my needs, it left me feeling empty and unable to assist those I care about the most, or even strangers for that matter. I have spent my life assisting others and often to my own detriment.

I adore helping people because it is second nature to me—both loved ones as well as total strangers. Uplifting is my forte and I enjoy being helpful. Historically my needs came last, if in fact, I considered them at all. That never felt right to me nor should it feel right to anybody else. I think we have all understood this backwards.

I frequently use the term “airport wisdom” to explain the critical importance of placing your own needs first.  We have all heard the instructions pre-flight that in the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure oxygen masks will drop down.  They insist that if you want to assist others, such as small children or elderly, that you must first put your own oxygen mask on before attempting to assist anyone else. Doesn’t that say it all? When you don’t take care of yourself, you are not able to take care of others, it is just that simple.

You might be thinking at this point, “Well, that is all fine and well, but I still don’t feel right about putting myself first.” This is clearly the result of years and years of conditioning.  After years of people constantly asking for my help, I began to get upset and frustrated with them for constantly putting me in a stressed-out situation but once again that is backwards thinking. I was not mad at them I was upset with myself for not putting my needs first.

I suspect many people do this exact same thing but I have learned over time that it wasn’t even benefiting others to always be in a position of needing to be “helped out” but likely stunted their abilities to tap into their own resourcefulness.

Today I pay attention to how I feel and meet my needs first, I find myself relaxed and happy, even during Covid-19 then I am able to assist whomever I want. My advice is always cafeteria style; take what you want and leave the rest. The reason to focus on your needs first is not just to benefit those around but simply to be joyful, so stay happy and well.