Either Put Yourself First, or You’ll Have Nothing Left for Yourself

positive me time alone

Putting others first isn’t a bad thing. It shows that you care about your fellow man and that you’re willing to contribute some good to the world. It’s an outstanding character trait to have.

Many people have been conditioned, often by well-meaning parents, that the polite thing to do is to put others ahead of ourselves. That making sacrifices for others shows manners and that we’re “good people”- that we are well-mannered and have morals. Nothing wrong with it.

However, when that courtesy is overdone or done at your own expense, that’s when it becomes a bad thing. The problem is that people will come to expect you to be a yes-person and take their crap. You’ll soon attract users and abusers and become a doormat.

In taking this advice, many of us found out the hard way that giving too much of ourselves sometimes involved overlooking abuse. Even worse, we found that it didn’t make the mistreatment go away but only encouraged the person to abuse us later.

bullied victim walked on doormat

Growing up, I heard every excuse you can imagine.

“Oh, they’re just having a bad day.”

“Maybe they have an abusive or cheating spouse at home.”

“Oh, but you never know what that person is going through.” Blah-blah-b-blah.

A few adults in my family and a few teachers advised me to,

“Give them a break.”

“Cut so-and-so some slack.”

“Try to overlook him.”

“Oh, but try to put yourself in her shoes.”

“Be reasonable.”

bullied victim doormat

That got old very quickly. I eventually grew fed up and wanted to scream,
“Um- EXCUSE ME! I’ve been ‘reasonable,’ and the only thing I ever got from it is taken advantage of! Would you be reasonable if this happened to you?!”

The point is that no matter what anyone tells you, it’s okay to put yourself first. And no law or rule says you have to tolerate unacceptable behavior- from anyone! Ever!

Anytime you’re mistreated, then advised or forced to “be nice” or “understand what Joe Blow is going through,” it only means that, subconsciously, the givers of this advice either don’t care about your boundaries, or they’re afraid of making the offending person angrier, and of the situation escalating. Some people can’t handle conflict.

They are only trying to silence you to appease the person who’s being a total jackass.

bully bullies crybaby tantrum crazy

These kinds of advice and expectations can do one of either two things to you as you get older:

A. It can program you to be over tolerant of unacceptable and abusive behaviors and set you up for a life of getting bullied by other people.

You grow up being so afraid of pissing anyone off that you accept any abuse to avoid conflict. You end up living a life of being crapped on by others.

B. It can have the exact opposite effect and give you an “F-you” attitude and a bad case of The Don’t-Give-A-Shits.

Because of being forced to accept bad behavior in the past, you become a mean, bitter, and apathetic adult and could care less about anyone. That’s not good either.

I’m one of the lucky ones. It gave me an equal blend of both. I believe in treating others how I’d want them to treat me and don’t mind lending a helping hand to someone who needs it.

positive self-care you can't pour from an empty cup you first

But if for one moment, I suspect that someone is taking my kindness for being a fool, I’ll drop that person like a bad habit and they’re on their own!

It’s okay to be kind. It’s okay to put others before you, but only in particular circumstances.

For example:

It’s perfectly fine to give an older adult your chair in a crowded doctor’s office.

It’s okay to get up and offer your seat to a combat soldier in a crowded airport.

In fact, it’s called having respect for elders and servicemen and women who fight for your country.

But never take abuse nor accept excuses for unacceptable behavior. Anytime someone crosses a line with you, go ahead. Respond in kind. Give it back to them because only then will the person realize that you aren’t a doormat and find someone else to abuse.

This is not selfish or being self-centered. It’s called self-preservation.

Looking Out for Number One

One thing I learned the hard way: If you don’t start looking out for number one, you’ll only continue playing second fiddle to others. Or worse, you might end up playing last fiddle! I cannot stress this enough. It’s not selfish to make yourself numero uno! Especially around bullies and people who don’t value you.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If you’re a parent raising children, or you have an ailing mother who depends on you, it’s only natural that you would put your family ahead of yourself- that’s a given. We all have an obligation to our families.

It’s also a given (or should be) that you always put God ahead of everyone else, including yourself. Again, that’s completely understandable, and more than that, it’s expected.

But when you’re in a toxic environment, around people who want to use and take you for granted, understand that you are top priority and to hell with them if they don’t like it.

Understand that when you’re being bullied in school or the workplace, the only person you have is you! So, be good to yourself. How you do this is to set firm boundaries and say no- and do it early-on and often!

You have to look out for number one, because, if you don’t, no one else will. In fact, they just might use you as a rug.

I know many, many people who were conditioned to think that putting yourself first is selfish or greedy- that taking care of yourself only means that you’re self-centered. They were raised being told that self-centeredness is a huge turnoff to others and in some cases, that’s true.

However, I’ve also noticed that bullies and abusers also tell their targets and victims those things only to shame them into staying around, taking their abuse silently, and accepting their inferiority to them (the bully/abuser).

Know that there’s a difference in being self-centeredness and self-care.

Self-centeredness means that you think you’re better than everyone else and that you think that any rules don’t apply to you. It means that you’re entitled- that you think everyone else is inferior to you and they should bow down and let you treat them however you deem them worthy because they have no boundaries.

Self-centeredness is one of the roots of bullying and abuse!

Self-care, on the other hand, means that you know that you’re no better than anyone else, but you’re just as good as the next person. Self-care means that you know that you’re equal to the next person and that you don’t deserve to be bullied or abused. Therefore, you know your rights and you’re not afraid to stand up for those rights.

It means that you hold yourself in high regard, just as you hold your family, friends, and the people you love and that you treat yourself just as well as you would another human being deserving of dignity.

It’s funny how quick bullies are to call us selfish or self-centered if we dare to stand up to their abuse. In fact, it’s part of the bully’s (or abuser’s) playbook. Accuse the target of that which you are guilty of yourself. Right?

If you have bullies or abusers who abuse you, always know that if they accuse you of anything- anything at all, you can bet that they are doing it themselves.

So, continue to look out for number one, even if you must find a way to do it on the sly. Don’t you think you’re worth it? I do.

With knowledge comes power!