You know you need to put yourself first sometimes, but you always find a way of not doing it. The question is why? You know it is healthy, you know it is a good thing to do yet you still cannot do it. There may be a few reasons that can stop you from putting yourself first.
If you believe that others deserve better than you, for whatever reason, you will find that when you try and prioritise your needs over someone else’s you may start to experience guilt. This could be that you feel that it is the wrong thing to do, that somehow it makes you selfish to put yourself first. The first thing to look at here would be what does selfish mean? I tend to find that when someone believes they are being selfish by putting their needs first, this is usually because they view being selfish as putting your needs first. This definition is not healthy, there is nothing wrong with putting your needs first and balancing things out by being considerate of others around you. Generally speaking, balancing your needs out with others is healthy, it allows you to be looked after as well as others. This is not selfish. Selfish people tend to lack consideration for others most of the time, whereby they are excessively concerned with their own needs. Another way of looking at this is if your friend was in a similar situation to you and felt guilty about putting their needs first, what would you say to them? Would you agree with them that they are being selfish, or would you be telling them they have nothing to feel guilty about?
You are too harsh on yourself
If you are self-critical on a regular basis, whereby you treat yourself in a harsh way, suddenly being kind to yourself is going to be difficult. You are saying to yourself that you deserve harsh treatment and being kind conflicts with this belief. The real question here is why do you deserve to be treated harshly, is this because you have made mistakes in the past? Or because other people mistreat you? Whatever the reason is, you may need to address the underlying root cause and reprogramme the belief system to be able to move forward by treating yourself in a kind way.
If you are a kind person and quite generous with your help to others, you may be confusing rescuing people from being caring. Whatever way you treat others, is the bar you set for what they should expect from you. Rescuing others means jumping in and help them even when they have not asked for your help, you unconsciously set a standard for them to expect you to help regardless of what is going on. This can lead to issues of resentment and anger towards others however you will still find that you rescue them even though you were angry at them. The rescuing triangle leads you constantly helping others, feeling like you have been taken advantage of, which then takes you to feel angry and then helping them again. This continuous cycle doesn’t get broken and you feel like you are on a rollercoaster of emotions.
Children that have an ill parent, whether there is a physical illness, or a mental health issue can feel like they need to care for the parent, whereby they get accustomed to putting other’s needs first. This can form a habit or pattern which transpire into adulthood and manifest itself in ways of caring for everyone rather than just one person. This way of functioning may have worked when you were younger and served its purpose well however as an adult it can cause other issues for you and is no longer a healthy way of being; your loved ones may now be able to look after themselves.
If you are prone to please other people, you may be trying to mask your insecurity of not liking yourself i.e., feeling like other’s see you in the same way you see yourself. The underlying issue here would be to deal with why you do not like yourself and it could be a cognitive distortion: mind-reading happening, whereby you feel you know what others are thinking. The reality may very well be different from what you tell yourself (people don’t like me), if friends and family members pay you compliments or behave in a caring manner towards you, this shows that you may have a distorted way of thinking.
Learning about the underlying causes or belief systems you have, puts you in a position whereby you are able to understand yourself better and address the beliefs you have to change them to healthier ways of being that work for you rather than against you.