They say there’s no time like the present and if there ever were a time to start putting yourself first, 2017 would most certainly be it.

Regardless of whether we have a growing group of friends, a small inner circle, a strong “tribe” of gal pals, or we prefer the company of one or two, we’re likely to spend a great deal of our time over the past years putting others before ourselves.

Many of us have been raised with strong moral and ethical principles, some of which include treating others as we would hope to be treated and putting the needs and happiness of others before, above, and beyond our own.

Personally, I was raised by parents who instilled in my sibling and I the notion that we should treat all others with kindness and respect; give to those who cannot provide for themselves; help the helpless; support the unsupported; and put others’ needs before our own. Growing up, I believed that putting others before myself made me happier, more fulfilled, and a better person. In many ways, it did.

But in some respects, it made me open to manipulation and allowed others to take advantage of me.

I can distinctly recall each time a close friend or acquaintance has taken advantage of my willingness to put their needs and happiness before my own. I’ve had friendships dissolve due to such issues, and have ended relationships after refusing to be walked over like a doormat.

As I’ve grown older and have learned to recognize when someone is or may be on the verge of taking advantage of my desire to ensure their happiness, I’ve also learned to put my foot down and say, “enough.” In some instances, I’ve had to walk away from people after realizing that I am not the only friend or person they’ve taken advantage of or used as a means to their own ends for being happy.

These learning experiences have taught me valuable lessons regarding what it means to put myself first versus what it actually means to put others before me.

Unsurprisingly, there is a difference between putting others before yourself and putting yourself first, but it’s not the selfish reason you may assume. We may presume, for example, that to put ourselves first means approaching and treating others in an unconcerned manner.

There’s a certain connotation to the idea of not putting others before ourselves; as if, by taking care of ourselves and choosing to not always put the needs of others before our own, we are uncaring, selfish, unconcerned, or narcissistic.

On the contrary, “putting yourself first” is more about caring for yourself and ensuring you are happy and healthy, as opposed to concerning yourself only with other people’s happiness, so that you are better equipped to help them be happy themselves.

I like to think of putting ourselves first as self-care, whereby we take the time to care for our own health and happiness and ensure that we ourselves are able to care for our own needs without sacrificing them for others.

You can think of it as you would the oxygen masks on a plane; typically, staff on an airplane tell passengers that, in the case of an emergency, we should secure our own oxygen masks before helping others with their masks, because if we can’t breathe, we certainly can’t help others breathe!

If putting ourselves first doesn’t mean being unconcerned about others, how, then, do we actually put ourselves first? There are a few ways you can approach 2017 with a more mindful, “me first” attitude that can help ensure your health and happiness without forsaking that of others.

Don’t live to work

Our jobs can often get the better of us, especially if we are freelancers or work in roles which require us to constantly stay connected to work emails, clients, or colleagues. It’s important to create time in your busy work schedule to take care of yourself, whether it’s a weekly massage you can enjoy using employee insurance benefits, or by taking a hike every Sunday morning to breathe fresh air. Your role as an employee (self-employed or otherwise) shouldn’t dominate your life.

Make time for loved ones

Making time for loved ones is especially important if you are involved in a romantic relationship. Making time for, and spending it with, loved ones is crucial in ensuring our relationships with partners, friends, and family members are healthy and flourish.

Keep your health in mind

Stress and anxiety can impact your health just as an illness or condition can; we should make time for ourselves, which allows us to focus on our personal health, even if it means not always being able to put others’ needs above our own.

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