Written by: Corinne Carter, Relationship Therapist
You are the most important person in your life. Yes, YOU! It’s true! In our experience, many people are uncomfortable with this idea, at least at first. Women, in particular, seem most uncomfortable with this idea initially because we are taught by our society to act as caregivers, many times putting our own needs on the back burner in order to do so. Being the most important person in your life is often confused with being selfish and, as such, the idea can be off-putting because people typically don’t want to be seen as selfish!
However, we encourage you to consider the following: if you aren’t the most important person in your life, you’re actually doing a disservice not only to yourself, but to your relationships as well. When you choose not to realize your own importance, you are actually damaging, rather than enhancing, your relationships. How can that be? Well, when you embrace your place as #1 in your own life and you begin to ensure that your needs are being met regularly, you become better equipped to act in ways that are loving towards others.
Putting yourself first doesn’t mean that you become apathetic to the needs of others, and it doesn’t mean that you live only for yourself. It also doesn’t mean that your needs come first all the time. Instead, it means that you recognize your needs as a priority and you choose to put the needs of others ahead of your own in specific situations, as appropriate. The key here is choice. When you aren’t the most important person in your life, others’ needs may take top priority by default, time and time again, until you eventually burn out and are no longer able to care for anyone. This is why we say it’s a disservice to yourself and your relationships to deny your own importance. Similar to the way that many financial advisors will tell you to pay yourself first in order to achieve financial success, we suggest that you love yourself first in order to experience success in your closest relationships, including the relationship you have with yourself.
Just like you can’t appreciate happiness without also experiencing sadness, and just like you can’t perceive light without also seeing the dark, the most sincere love of others is experienced only when you have the most profound love of self. In this way, loving yourself is not at odds with loving others but, instead, is the foundation for loving others in the best way possible. Becoming the most important person in your life is not selfish; it’s a necessity for loving those who mean the most to you. In her book, “The Disease to Please: Curing the People-Pleasing Syndrome”, Dr. Harriet Braiker called this type of self-love “enlightened self-interest”, stating that “[what enlightened self-interest means is] that you will take good care of yourself, even putting your needs first at times, while simultaneously considering the needs and welfare of others…Enlightened self-interest, unlike selfishness, precludes making others suffer at your expense."
There are many ways that you can love yourself first. For example, you can practice setting boundaries with others (it’s okay to say “no” sometimes!); you can make time for what you love, such as reading a good book, doing a creative project, taking a bubble bath before bed, taking yoga classes, going for a walk after dinner, etc.; you can learn to forgive yourself for mistakes that you have made in the past; etc. Whatever it looks like for you, we invite you to “embrace your place as #1” in order to bring positive change to your inner self and your relationships with those around you!