By Aasha Amber Bhatnagar
In a world full of selfishness, it seems like putting ourselves first should be easy. In reality, though, putting ourselves first can come off as being self-absorbed or lacking empathy for others.
Putting yourself first actually means that you’re being as kind to yourself as you should be to others. Even though treating people with kindness is a top priority, I often forget to treat myself with that same kindness.
Last semester, I transferred to Boston University and went through a hard social transition. I was excited to be at a school where I would be on the same page as others intellectually and academically. I thought I would instantly make friends and have an overwhelming social calendar.
My suitemates and I talked in a group chat for months before Move-In Day, planning all of the fun things we’d do together and how we were going to live our best lives.
The first few weeks of school were everything I had hoped for in college life. I hung out with friends until 2 a.m., got lunch and dinner with new people and always found someone to talk to.
After the honeymoon phase was over, I found myself in a situation I never thought I would be in: living with someone who constantly put themselves first, going so far as to embarrass me in front of our other suitemates.
I constantly felt a need for approval, so I did everything they asked of me. I felt like I had to walk on eggshells so I didn’t hurt their feelings. I always put their needs and feelings above my own, which ended up making me feel self-conscious about everything I did — from the clothes I wore to how I prefer staying in rather than going out.
I felt like I was just an emotional ATM machine being cashed out every time they needed something or someone to vent to. They took full advantage of my caring for others over myself.
After a semester’s worth of drama (that would have made a hit reality show), I was finally able to separate myself from the situation and realized I need to put myself first, no matter the circumstances. Yes, that might sound selfish, but everyone else was doing it, so why wasn’t I?
I’m a people pleaser. I would rather make others happy than be happy myself. But if I’m willing to hand out free compassion to others, I should be willing to keep some for myself.
Prioritizing yourself is confusing. Does that mean sacrificing “me time” or treating myself to a $5 latte? I don’t have the dictionary definition, but to me, self-prioritization is about taking time to focus on my own needs versus my friends’.
Whether that means saying no to going out even when your friends are pressuring you to join, or not going to dinner because you have a huge paper due the next day, it’s okay not to overextend yourself for social activities. Doing what YOU want to do will improve your happiness and productivity, which will benefit your confidence and wellbeing in the long-run.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to make the necessary changes to prioritize yourself. You shouldn’t feel guilty about placing your own needs above others’.
You have your own goals to reach, and only you can make them happen. So don’t completely lose sight of your personal needs to help others fulfill theirs.