Learning how to start putting yourself first isn’t easy when you’ve been used to putting others first.
Often because there is a challenging history to why we make putting others first our priority.
Therefore, learning how to start putting yourself first is a process.
And so, it is this I’ll be talking about in today’s blog post.
What it means to put others first
When talking about putting others first, people-pleasing is commonly associated with it.
However, I believe it’s important to throw labels out the window and look at what labels mean at a deeper level.
So what is really meant by putting others first and people-pleasing?
It is a learned behaviour, which involves making the decision to put the following:
- needs; and
…of others, above our own thoughts, feelings, wants, needs and desires for fear (and guilt) of:
- what they will think about us if we don’t; and
- what they might say
For instance, we might do this by automatically jumping in to help others without considering the time, effort or pressure saying yes will place on us.
As a result, ignoring our thoughts, feelings, wants, needs and desires as though they (and we) don’t matter.
What we think, how we feel, our wants, needs and desires, however, make us who we are.
They make us come alive as individuals, however, when we ignore them or are unable to identify them, we lose ourselves.
What’s the struggle?
Struggle #1 – Why we do it?
To get the approval of others.
And, unless we’re getting the approval of others, we’re not satisfied.
We’ll always find another and another and another reason not to be happy.
But, this all happens on a subconscious level so we go through life none the wiser.
For instance, when I used to get approval for a job well done. The next thing you know, I stopped putting so much effort into doing it.
Because I perceived the approval of others as permission to stop needing to put so much effort into doing well.
A, ‘your doing good’ was all I needed and wanted (or so I thought) and my wants were non-existent, which I thought was fine since…
‘I didn’t know what I wanted’.
I didn’t have any dreams and goals, so whatever I did, I wasn’t so fixated on.
But truthfully, I’d been told so many times you can’t do this, you can’t do that, I started believing it.
I stopped caring about my wants and desires because I didn’t believe I’d get them anyway so what was the point in trying.
However, not putting yourself first because of whatever reason your mind wants to make, doesn’t make it acceptable.
Not for me and most certainly not for you.
What gives way to this behaviour is the beliefs of those who put others first and the feelings these raise in them.
Struggle #2 – Beliefs
Those who put others first have a belief they’re not worthy (good, smart, loveable, attractive likeable enough etc.).
Therefore, to feel worthy, to feel loved, wanted and needed, they believe they must do things for others.
And if they don’t, they fear others will abandon them.
They also feel a sense of guilt, as they feel if they’re not helping others, they’re failing them.
Meanwhile, believing, asking for what they want, need and desire in a relationship is selfish.
Not to mention, not knowing how to identify what they want, need and desire or how to communicate it effectively so they are heard.
Overall, the feeling of unworthiness and the feelings of fear and guilt manifest themselves in the form of self-pity, which inevitably spills over into their relationships.
Check out this How (and why) to change the way you see yourself to learn more about your beliefs.
Struggle #3 – Impact on relationships
Self-pity aims to make others feel sorry for a person by believing there is something in them, which is lacking.
For instance, a bad family upbringing, a bad education, lack of money etc.
Therefore, preventing them from getting what they want as they feel dis-empowered to find solutions to solve their struggles.
In addition, it is a constant referring to the past and/or what could have, should have and would have been.
And, the hardships, they have faced.
Blaming others for the cause of their problems.
Whilst also looking to others to confirm their choices and decisions are correct.
Lastly, they might unconsciously utilise crying and lying as a way to make you further feel sorry for them.
This behaviour is unhealthy.
In particular, because it is manipulative and controlling so often attracts other manipulative and controlling people, whether partners or friends.
Those who put others first are manipulative to avoid conflict, whilst those they attract seek to dominate and control them.
This is because both behaviours stem from a belief they’re unworthy.
Alongside this, they also struggle with identifying and asking for what they want and need from the other.
People who seek to dominate and control others, therefore, see those who constantly put others first as more:
- impressionable; and
- agreeable to doing things for them
Qualities, which in their eyes, give them permission to take advantage of those who constantly put others first.
Another reason they attract each other is neither of them were taught how to ask for what they needed or to listen to their wants, needs and desires.
Therefore, those who dominate and control also have elements of people-pleasing in them too.
Hence, why they attract each other.
Consequently, those who put others first are left with one-sided relationships in which they do all the giving.
These relationships also form a sense of codependency since their sense of worth comes from the other.
Lastly, they also lack boundaries, which are essential for creating healthy relationships.
None of this happens on a conscious level, however, so it is important to have compassion for yourself if you resonate with the above.
Struggle #3 – How it feels
When we overextend ourselves by constantly putting others first, we’re left feeling:
- dissatisfied; and
- unhappy with ourselves and our lives.
Therefore, making us feel off-balanced and off our true nature (i.e. peace, love and joy).
And when in this state of being, not only do we hurt ourselves, we hurt others in the process too.
Struggle #4 – Feeling guilty for putting yourself first
Have you ever stopped to question how each member of your family makes you feel when around them?
Not only in one moment, but every moment you’re around them.
Because truthfully our feelings of guilt around a particular topic including wanting to put ourselves first, stem from both:
- the judgements of our families, which then turn into;
- our own judgements of ourselves
This is because our beliefs are formed based on our relationships with our parents.
For those who constantly put others first, it’s not unusual for them to have been brought up in unsafe environments.
For instance, where bullying (belittling, humiliation, criticism etc.) was present.
A great article on this has been written by Sam Dylan Finch called People pleasing can be a result of trauma. It’s called fawning – here’s how to recognise it.
And depending on our consciousness (aka. awareness) of these tactics as adults, we might choose to listen or override them.
If unaware, however, we can end up repeating patterns in our relationships outside our families, using the same tactics they use with us.
And, we come to associate feelings of guilt and bullying with being normal.
For more on this check out my blog post on the 3 ways Psychotherapy can support you.
Why you need to learn how to start putting yourself first
The belief ‘I’m not worthy’ is deep-rooted in the being of a person who is constantly putting others first.
Specifically, it arises in the form of ‘I’m not good enough’.
Therefore, it will take time and effort to overcome it.
However, it is possible to overcome.
How to learn how to put yourself first?
If you resonate with constantly putting others first, to learn how to start putting yourself first, you must make the decision to see a Psychotherapist.
To do this, visit your GP (if based in the UK) and ask for a list of Psychotherapy practices in your area.
The benefit of this is you will have…
A dedicated person who will listen to you
This is beneficial if you feel the people in your environment are against you rather than for you.
Or you struggle to be open and honest with them because you fear they’ll not understand or listen to you.
For instance, they’re always giving you a reason not to do something or are constantly criticising your decisions.
This is because it gives you an opportunity to understand why you put others first in your present, by linking it to your past experiences.
And, once you know:
- why you constantly put others first; and
- how this makes you feel
You will be more open to putting yourself first.
Seeing a Psychotherapist also is the first step to putting yourself first because as Tony Robbin says ‘where energy flows attention goes’.
So by giving yourself the time and space to focus your attention on you (i.e. your thoughts, feelings, desires, wants and needs) you tell yourself, you and your precious life are worthy.
And overtime others too will see you as worthy.
Lastly, as I say in my blog post From therapy to the excitement of life transformation, you’ll learn how to have healthier relationships.
For instance, by learning how to stand up for yourself and how to set boundaries with others.
As a result, also developing newfound freedom, confidence and love in yourself.
The consequences of not putting yourself first
If you don’t understand why you put others first with the support of a Psychotherapist, you’ll continue to feel unhappy and dissatisfied with your life.
Because if you don’t address the things in your life causing you unhappiness and merely accept them, you can never change them.
You might get a new job, a new partner, a new home, but you’ll still put others first and the same situations and feelings will arise.
And you and your relationships with others will continue to suffer.
You may not have had the best relationship with one or both of your parents, but with Psychotherapy, you can change the end of your story.
So start today.
Learning how to put yourself first isn’t as easy as it sounds because of the history behind why you constantly put others first.
For instance, your beliefs of unworthiness, which have deep-roots in your relationship with your parents.
Therefore, learning how to start putting yourself first is a process you need to go through with the support of a Psychotherapist.