Why We Need to Put Ourselves First and Prioritize Our Own Happiness

“Putting yourself first is not selfish. It’s the exact opposite. You must put your happiness and health first before you can be of use to anyone else.” ~Simon Sinek

If you’re someone who cares deeply for the people in your life, you may want to do anything you can for them. This devotion isn’t always reciprocated. This is not to suggest that we shouldn’t think about things transactionally. However, sometimes it can be a good idea to give yourself away to those who don’t care enough to take care of our needs.

It often leaves us feeling like we’re being taken advantage of.

This can often leave us feeling empty and depleted.

It often leaves us feeling like we’re trying to make everyone else happy, yet we’re miserable.

Instead of doing things because we want to do them, we end up doing them because we’re attempting to make others happy.

These moments are what eat me alive. I end up sticking around a project far longer than I should because I’m worried about what it will mean for the other person.

For the last year, I’ve been producing a weekly podcast with a friend. The podcast gave me meaning and joy when it started and I enjoyed working on it. What about now? Now it feels like I’m doing work that I hate. All the time, I feel like quitting. It’s an energy suck on my life. And all I can think of is, will they be unhappy with me if I tell them I don’t want to do the podcast anymore?

I’m guessing we’ve all done this before—base our happiness on the happiness of others. We think…

My parents won’t be happy unless I become a doctor, so I’ll go to medical school.

My partner won’t be happy unless I prioritize their career over mine, so I’ll give up on my dreams.

My kids won’t be happy unless I devote every waking moment to their needs, so I’ll sacrifice my sense of self.

My friends won’t be happy unless I drop everything when they need me, so I’ll put my life on hold.

My family won’t be happy unless I am the person they want me to be, so I’ll put their needs first.

My cat won’t be happy unless… cats will *never* be happy. Similar to most people expecting you do the same for your cat. If they attach an expectation, you aren’t dealing with someone who values your worth and what’s meaningful to you.

They’re looking at you as a means to something they want. This isn’t saying that’s a “bad” person, it’s the reality of being a human. There’s software running in the background that is based on self-preservation. It’s universal across all living organisms.

This software doesn’t exactly serve us in situations like this because it does everything it can to avoid pain and fear. And that’s exactly what’s keeping us stuck in these circumstances. We don’t want to cause pain in others, and we sure as hell don’t want to experience pain ourselves. We fear for our safety if we don’t say yes to those people, and prioritise our needs.

Do our parents cease to love us?

Is our partner going to leave?

Are our children going to suffer?

Are our friends going to stop being friends with us?

Is it possible for our family to start to neglect us?

Will my cat still love me?

It’s normal to have feelings of pain and fear.

That’s worth emphasizing because you might think that the pain and fear are unique to your situation. It’s not. It’s not. NormalPart of your daily life.

We can understand the reasons why people may project their fear and pain onto our choices and help us to make better decisions.

Courage is required in this situation. You are the only person who can change things. You should stand up as you would to someone you love and a cause that you believe in. Stand up like your survival depends on it… because it does.

It’s not selfish to put yourself first (what you want to do with your life). It’s selfish to expect others to put you and your needs first (what others want you to do with your life).

My baby is here. Because of this, I have a different perspective on my happiness. If I’m working on projects that feel like they’re robbing me of my time, I’m willingly sacrificing the kind of dad I want to be—present and grounded. The poor kid would be left with a warm body and a mind that is elsewhere racing with anxiety because I’m focused on making others happy.

While you could choose to do nothing in the hope of avoiding fear and pain, it can lead to a life of regret. This is the equivalent to death from a thousand paper cuts. This is the equivalent of losing your identity and feeling lost. Your life seems meaningless.


You are.


There is no way to do it again.

You have no other chance.

You don’t get to do this life all over again.

So don’t waste your days living someone else’s life.

At the end of it all, I realized that being a father was more important than any project. Like most things in life we try to avoid, the decision became far more complex than it was necessary. It was a lesson learned from Dr Seuss who wrote, “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”

People who care want you to be happy.

They’re not the ones holding you back. They’re the cheerleaders of your life who ask you, who do you want to become?

Live your life. It’s not selfish. It’s prioritizing your happiness.

Chris Wilson

Chris Wilson is bipolar and creative, with an eye for personal improvement. His passions include minimalism and productivity. Simplify your Why is where he shares his experiences with type II bipolar disorder, depression and entrepreneurship. A free course was created by him for those who want to live a simpler, happier and more productive life with less stress. It is available by clicking this link.

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