Growing up, we’re taught to put others first. We learn to share our toys and favorite possessions with all the other children in school. We learn to be selfless and come to the conclusion that putting ourselves first is a bad trait to have. This mindset is further reinforced as we grow older and more mature.

Yet, putting others first all the time means we’re always putting ourselves second. And, in the grand scheme of things, this behavior has the potential to set us back further. When we consistently put ourselves on the backburner, we hinder our progress as individuals both mentally and emotionally.

The thing is, putting yourself first is extremely important when it comes to personal development.

But, there’s a fine line between doing something for yourself and being selfish. That’s why we’re first going to go over why you need to make yourself a priority and how this is different than being selfish. Then, we’ll review a whole bunch of things you can do in your life to make yourself a priority without being selfish.

Why Making Yourself a Priority is Important

Most people are afraid of doing something purely for themselves in fear that it’ll come off as selfish. That’s exactly why you might be willing to drop everything to help a friend in need or refuse to say “no,” even if you don’t want to actually do something that’s asked of you.

When you focus on putting others first all the time, you’re not getting enough time and opportunity to put yourself first. After all, everybody needs time for themselves emotionally, physically, and mentally. You need the time to make yourself happy, experience true relaxation, and grow as your own person.

When you make yourself a priority, you:

  • Have time to do things that make you happy
  • Give yourself some time to relax and recuperate
  • Spend time with the ones you care about
  • Focus on what’s important to you
  • Feel like your own person
  • Can improve your mental, emotional, and physical health
  • Will be less stressed

However, the approach to putting yourself first needs to be done very delicately. Otherwise, you might come off as rude or selfish to those you care about. Just keep in mind that it also might take some time for those around you to get used to your new boundaries.

Selfish vs. Prioritizing Yourself

You’re probably wondering what the difference is between being selfish and prioritizing yourself. That’s because plenty of people assume that it’s selfish to ever put your own needs above another person.

But, that’s not entirely true.

When you’re selfish, you do something purely for yourself without thinking about how others might be impacted by it. All you care about is how you’ll feel when you act the way you do, even if it hurts others in the process. There’s a clear disregard for how others might feel.

For example, here are some things that might be selfish.

  • Cheating on a significant other
  • Driving drunk or under the influence of drugs
  • Stealing items or taking money from people
  • Not cleaning up after yourself
  • Stringing someone along
  • Regularly ignoring familiar obligations so you can have fun
  • Ignoring a friend in real trouble so you can go shopping

When you’re making yourself a priority instead, you’re not doing it intentionally to hurt somebody else. You’re also not acting recklessly in a way you know can hurt somebody you care about. You’re simply trying to do something to make yourself happy, relax, or clear your own mind.

17 Ways to Make Yourself a Priority

Here are 17 different things you can do to make yourself a priority today! Keep in mind that not all of these can apply to your life.

1 – Say “No” Sometimes

Here’s a question to think about: If somebody important to you asked you to do something right now to help them out, would you even think about your answer? Or would you just immediately say “yes” and drop everything else you were doing?

As honorable as it might be to build yourself up as a dependable person, you know very well that this can be very inconvenient for you. After all, you have other things in your life that need to be taken care of that are important to you. You don’t always have to say “yes.”

So, try to stop worrying about how saying “no” might hurt those around you. It’s okay to want time to yourself and only yourself. It’s okay to have other things that are more important to you right now. It’s okay to tell somebody that it’s not a great time.

Do things because you truly want to, not because you feel you have to.

2 – Take the Time to Rest

When you’re always putting others ahead of yourself, your mental, physical, and emotional health are put on the backburner. You’re always available at the drop of a hat and you never have the time to truly rest or take a break.

After all, you feel the need to respond or act whenever somebody asks you for assistance. In a way, you’re never off the clock with time just for yourself. But the best part is, taking the time to rest can mean just about anything depending on what you like to do.

You can schedule one day a week or even one day a month to just do nothing. That means you’re not available to take on new tasks from your boss on your day off or even start a home improvement project that you’ve been putting off for a while.

It’s all about taking time to yourself and allowing yourself to rest physically and mentally.

3 – Get Active

If you’re always working your schedule around everybody else, that means you’re probably not taking the time to focus on your physical fitness. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to get a gym membership or go for a mile run every day. But you should do something to stay active.

Find a physical activity that you enjoy, even if it isn’t the most intense. That can be anything from playing soccer in the yard with your young children to going on a solo hike at the local community park. Just find something that gets your body moving and your mind free.

What’s even better about exercise is that it releases endorphins within your body. This is known as one of the “feel-good hormones” and can naturally boost your mood. So, not only are you improving your health and putting your physical health first for once, but you’re also boosting your happiness.

You might even improve your self-esteem if you begin losing weight or building muscle mass.

4 – Turn Off Your Phone

You’ve really built yourself up as someone that everybody can lean on. You always answer your phone calls, text messages, and emails without a second thought. You’ll put everything else on the back burner when a call, text, or email comes through.

It’s great to be busy, but it can be hard to prioritize yourself when you’re always available to everybody else. So, set aside some time to turn off your phone here and there. That can be an hour or two a day, a few hours a weekend, or even once a week.

You might even want to go as far as to turn off your phone or your notifications at night. This can keep you from waking up in the middle of the night when your phone buzzes or rings. The better sleep you can get, the better your mood will be.

Plus, there’s absolutely no need for you to have your phone on 24/7.

5 – Leave Yourself Some Free Time Every Day

Being dedicated to your job and your career is great for building confidence and furthering your success, but it can also take up a lot of your spare time. That’s especially the case if you’re always on the clock and ready to work, even well after work hours are over.

But you might also notice that your schedule is so overloaded that you have practically no time for yourself by the end of the night. So, it’s more important than ever to leave yourself some free time every day to do something other than work.

One great way to do that is by leaving your work at work and enjoying the time that you spend at home. That might even mean turning off your work phone once you punch out and not bringing your work laptop home with you.

Nobody wants their entire life to revolve around work, so avoid having work take over your entire life if you can.

6 – Put Your Own Needs First

As much as everybody around you has needs that you’re willing to help out with, you have your own needs as well. That’s why it’s important that you focus on meeting your own daily needs first before putting anybody else ahead of you.

Let’s say your friend reaches out and says they need help with something. But you have an extremely packed day ahead of you and 100 things on your own to-do list. Even though you want to help your friend, you do have your own life to worry about as well. And, not meeting your own needs will only cause them to keep building up.

Just keep in mind that your needs can be anything that’s important to you. That can range from having free time every day to go to the gym and improve your fitness to even going to the grocery store and picking up your weekly meals.

There’s no reason to set yourself back every time somebody else asks you to do something.

7 – Lower Your Expectations for Yourself

When we talk about prioritizing yourself, we’re usually talking about putting yourself ahead of other people for once in your life. But this can also carry over to treating yourself kindly and reducing your current load of stress to improve your mood.

It’s understandable and perhaps admirable that you have high expectations for yourself, but what happens when you don’t meet the goals you’ve set for yourself? You might feel down on your luck and disappointed in your lack of achievements.

When this happens, your self-esteem begins to drop, and your mood might be lower than ever. Now you have to put in even more work to make yourself feel better and like an accomplished individual. So, lower your expectations and go with the flow.

Don’t hold yourself to extremely high standards and be okay with not being perfect all the time.

8 – Do Something You’ve Always Wanted To Do

One of the most satisfying things in life is doing something you’ve never done before. That’s especially the case when it comes to doing things you’ve always wanted to do, but never had the chance to do. Sometimes, we’re so afraid of what others might think that we never share what our true dreams are.

So, take some time to be a little adventurous and try new things. That can be just about anything, including taking an art class, going on a road trip down the coast, or even something a little wild like skydiving. Look for new experiences that you’ve always wondered about.

Most importantly, try to work new things into your schedule on a more consistent basis. One great way to do this is by creating a bucket list. Keep track of all the things you truly want to experience during your lifetime and make the effort to check each experience off.

Just remember that you don’t need anybody else’s approval or go-ahead to try new things.

9 – Do Things You Love

You might know very well what already makes you happy, but you may have pushed your own desires and hobbies aside to help somebody else recently. It’s time to bring some extra joy and happiness to your life again.

So, take the time each week to do something you truly enjoy doing. It doesn’t matter whether that’s doodling on paper, volunteering at the local animal shelter, taking a nap on the couch, or going for a swim at the beach. As long as it makes you happy, go for it!

And, keep in mind that it’s perfectly okay to want to do these activities alone. Spending time with others while doing the things that you love can be comforting. Other times, it can be extra stressful and keep your mind on things other than yourself and your own peace.

At least once a week, do something you truly love to do.

10 – Clear Your Mind

When your life is overwhelming, your mind is always “on.” You’re always thinking about something and you never have a genuine moment of peace and quiet for yourself. You might even find yourself with anxiety and extra stress that impact your mental health.

That’s why it’s extremely important to work on clearing your mind whenever you can. One good way to do this is by meditating. Better yet, you can do a quick meditation session in just a few minutes. This can help you to improve your focus, clear your mind, and even make you happy.

It might also be a good idea to do mindless hobbies and tasks to turn your mind “off.” That can include coloring in an adult coloring book, playing with kinetic sand, or just hanging out with your pets at home. So, work on keeping your mind as clear as possible.

If you feel like your mind is in overdrive and life is hectic, do what you can to clear your mind.

11 – Travel

When you’re always at work or ready to run over to somebody else’s house to give them a hand, you might find yourself limiting your travels. After all, you always want to be there when you’re needed. And, you may leave the home only to go to work or school and run errands.

But you don’t have to necessarily go on vacation to get some traveling in. Find the time every once in a while, to travel a little bit. This can be across the world, across the country, across the state, or even across your town.

So, make a list of locations you’ve always wanted to go to. Schedule a day trip to a park a few hours away. Schedule a road trip up and down the coast. You can even schedule a 5-day cruise across the Atlantic Ocean. Just find some way to get out of your local area and see what else the world has to offer.

Better yet, you don’t have to spend any money to travel locally.

12 – Treat Yourself

When was the last time you actually did something to make yourself feel good? Now, when was the last time you did something to make somebody else feel good? If there’s a huge difference in time between the two, it might be time to treat yourself.

Treating yourself is the best thing you can do to put yourself first. And, it can be just about anything that makes you feel good. You might want to head to the salon and get a new hairstyle, get your nails done, get a massage, or even enjoy a nice glass of wine over a healthy meal.

Just do something that you can’t do every single day, but something that makes you happy, nonetheless. You don’t even have to spend money! You can do something as simple as lying out in the sun at the beach or doing your own pedicure at home.

Try to make yourself feel lovely and important for once.

13 – Do Something Fun

Do you remember the last fun thing you did in your life? Or, do you live your life in pure “adult mode”? If you feel like your entire life revolves around work, errands, and doing important tasks, it might be time to do something fun for once. So, broaden your horizons and find some form of entertainment.

When we talk about doing something fun, we’re talking about something that allows you to let loose and ease the tension in your body and mind. That can be something like miniature golf, bowling, playing volleyball on the beach, or going fishing.

But maybe you already spend the majority of your time staying active and moving around. You might just want to set aside some time to do something lazy. You might want to do a puzzle, play video games, or even do a group Facetime with your best friends.

Focus on doing things that make you smile and laugh as often as possible.

14 – Spend Time with Those Closest to You

Putting yourself first doesn’t always mean that you have to ignore everybody else around you. After all, spending time with those closest to you might just be what makes you the happiest. Just make sure that those you surround yourself are stress-free and dependable as well.

When you spend time with those you love, you don’t always have to do something wild. You can simply spend time on a video call, hang out and watch your favorite television shows, or play board games. And, nothing says you have to go out or even spend money.

But, don’t feel like you have to spend time with other people whenever they want to spend time with you. You might be the type of person that enjoys your solitude every once in a while. So, don’t force socialization if that’s not something you’re interested in.

At least once a week, try to socialize with those important to you and rekindle your relationships.

15 – Dress Up

It’s incredibly easy to let yourself go when you’re worried about everyone and everything else around you. At a certain point, you might realize that you haven’t put in any effort into your appearance in weeks or months. You’re simply going through the motions of life.

But nothing says that you have to have a fancy occasion to dress up and make yourself look good. Sometimes you might just want to do your hair, fix your makeup, paint your nails, and wear your best clothing. It’s about building your own self-esteem.

You don’t even have to go out to the store to buy any new clothes, though this is always in the cards. Take a look in your closet and pick out your favorite outfit. Style your hair, do your makeup, and make yourself look great.

If you’re feeling daring, go somewhere when you’re all dolled up.

16 – Express Yourself

When was the last time you truly took the time to think about your thoughts and express them? If it’s been a while, it might be time to find a new way to express yourself. In the process, this can take a huge weight off of your chest and make you feel much better about yourself.

How you choose to express yourself will come down to what you enjoy doing and what makes you happy. You might want to try out different types of art like painting or drawing. Or, you can write in a journal, write a song, or even write in a journal. Just remember that it doesn’t matter how well you do these things, just that you’re doing them.

Expressing yourself might even mean opening up about your emotions to those around you. Not only will this help to build your relationships, but it can also help you to work through your issues at the same time. If your issues seem to be quite intense, it might be a good idea to even schedule an appointment with a therapist.

Expressing yourself isn’t a weakness and is a great way to put yourself first here and there.

17 – Learn

Even though you haven’t been in school for years or even decades, that doesn’t mean that it’s too late to learn new things. This is a great way to keep your mind always growing while also doing what you truly enjoy. You can expand your interests and develop who you are as a person.

There are plenty of ways for you to learn new things at this stage in your life. You can watch simple YouTube videos on topics that are of interest to you. You can also enroll in local group classes or sign up for courses at your local community college.

Learning can take place anywhere and in any way. You might want to buy a guitar or an electric keyboard and learn to play with the help of the internet. You can also read educational books that teach you how to do new things. Just focus on broadening your horizons in some way.

You can even set a goal of learning one new thing every week, month, or year.

Final Thoughts

The most important thing you can do in your life is prioritizing yourself at least sometimes. In fact, it’s not at all selfish to tell people “no” or to do things that you enjoy purely for your own enjoyment. You don’t have to dedicate your entire life to putting others first and making everybody else around you happy.

When you prioritize yourself, you can improve your own happiness and build upon the relationships you already have. You can also set firm boundaries with those you care about and achieve a state of greater balance in your own life. You’ll show others just how much you value yourself as well.

Most importantly, remember that it might take you a decent amount of time to get used to putting yourself first. You might feel guilty about turning people down or doing something you love instead of helping another person when they ask for it. This is completely normal and will take time to get used to. In the long run, you will thank yourself.