“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle”. But you sure can’t light another candle if yours isn’t burning.

The act of putting yourself first is a gift to yourself as well as to the world around you. Why is it important to realize this?

Because usually the biggest misconception is that by putting yourself first, you somehow take without giving, or grow without helping.

This is why so many people — including people with extraordinary potential — become afraid of doing what’s best for them.

They fall into the trap of thinking that everything in this world is so scarce and that any form of self-realization is somehow a terrible sin.

Self-interest, selfishness… How many words have people come up with to discredit those who put themselves first, or are simply ambitious?

It is possible to be selfish, etc. but you have to be very careful with words because they often describe traits that have nothing to do with you.

  • Turn “self-interest” into self-love
  • Turn “selfishness” into fulfillment
  • Turn “arrogance” into healthy self-worth
  • Turn “superiority” into healthy self-esteem

The problem with self-imposed guilt

We can learn many things about psychology and our mindset in general by simply looking at the natural kingdom.

Scientifically, animals can feel many emotions, including sadness, surprise, joy, and even grief. However, guilt (which is a secondary emotion) is extremely rare.

Now, here’s where it gets even more interesting — not only is guilt practically non-existent in nature, but to make things worse, in humans guilt is often self-imposed.

Which means that although in some cases the feeling of guilt is necessary for growth and understanding, in many cases it’s nothing but a weird type of self-inflicted pain.

And if you look within, and think of your own feelings of guilt — past or present — you’ll find that they often has no real purpose and that they don’t benefit you or anyone else.

Mind you, this isn’t an oversimplification. It really is that simple. You must let go of thoughts and feelings that are unhelpful, and guilt generally is one of them.

How to put yourself first without feeling guilty

1. See guilt as a choice

First and foremost, who decides how you feel? Who is in control — society, its stereotypes, your limiting beliefs, your subconscious fears? Or you?

Self-imposed guilt can be very intense, and very convincing at times. This doesn’t mean you don’t have the power to detach from it, realize that it doesn’t serve you, and let go of it.

2. Use the power of habit

Once you get in touch with your own feelings and learn to keep good ones and discard bad ones (as you would do with items when decluttering), then it really does become a habit.

The longer you put yourself first and feel perfectly fine about it, the more you’ll do it subconsciously. Eventually, it will be part of your personality; and you’ll wonder how you could waste so much energy for no reason.

3. Prioritize your health

Though both physical health and mental health are vital, it can be difficult to realize the importance of mental health because it’s invisible, that is, it has to do with your mood, thoughts, and anything that is intangible.

That’s why a good way to put yourself first without the demon of guilt is to prioritize your physical health first. Besides the benefits, it will be an exercise to love yourself and care about your own wellbeing.

4. Notice what happens

What happens when you put yourself first? Internally, and externally? In other words, how do you feel? And how does the world around you change?

Interestingly, what usually happens is that by putting yourself first, you also inspire others to do the same and the result is more happiness, inside and outside you. Think of the candle metaphor in the first paragraph.

5. Know it may be harder

Because caring about your own wellbeing, success, and self-realization implies that you are responsible for them. So in a way, putting yourself and your needs first can be difficult.

In a way, it’s easier to do what’s best for others — or to simply not care at all. Same with dreams and goals — some people don’t have any purely out of fear of responsibility.

6. Let go of fake friends

If you are ever surrounded by people who put you down or who criticize you for putting yourself first, then it’s time to say goodbye to them.

A real friend wants you to shine, to express your full potential, to be the best you can be. Jealousy — let alone shaming — can only be a sign of a fake friend.

7. Know what you want

When you have a really big goal, either for yourself or others (e.g. a goal that makes the world a better place), then putting yourself first could be the only option.

Why? Because at that point you cannot afford to waste your energy in any way. Self-imposed guilt is a massive waste of psychic (but also physical) energy. Big enough goals cannot coexist with it.

8. Learn from others

Lastly, take advantage of our own tendency, as humans, to emulate those around us. The last tip to put yourself first without feeling guilty is to surround yourself with confident, successful people.

This is actually one of the easiest ways because it requires virtually no effort on your part. “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”, and it happens subconsciously.