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What does 'Putting Me First' mean to you in relationships or situations? (Any kind)

Just Sara
Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

I read of so many situations within relationships where people find it difficult to deal with their partner/boss/family/friend etc. "How can I help them to overcome and treat me better?"

This plea arrives on the forums every day. The simple (it would seem) and rational answer is to be the best we can be regardless, and to think of ourselves first. Easier said than done yeah?

I was placed in a dangerous situation with a stranger recently. I acted quickly to protect myself and my property with positive results. It was scary and anxiety challenged me afterwards so I called Lifeline. A pearl of wisdom came from her which resonated with me; "You put yourself first and this is to be praised, not questioned"

Why is it we don't do this with loved one's or people in our circle of trust until it's too late?

First time posters are more than welcome to contribute as well as our regular members!

Go for it!

Sara xo

65 Replies 65

Community Member
Great question. I think that because of my own insecurities I naturally assume that others deserve more or are worth more than me. Intellectually I know this is incorrect, but my feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness win out too often. It is difficult to insist that others treat me with respect when I have not been treating myself with respect. I know I should try to put my own needs first, but I also always assume that other's may be going through a hard time and may need me more than I need them. I give and give until there is nothing left, and then will finally put my foot down when, as you said, it is too late. I think it is important to set boundaries for ourselves and those closest to us, to make sure everyone understands that there is a certain level of mutual respect and kindness that should always be maintained. It is not fair for one person to always put others first when it could mean so much detriment to their own health and happiness. It is more important to know what you want, what you deserve and what you are worth and expect others to treat you as such. In the end, people who love you will happily treat you with care and respect anyway, anyone who is treating you poorly should really not be in your circle of trust anyway. You should always put yourself first and understand that this is not selfishness, it is survival. You are just as important as any other person and protecting yourself is often the only thing within your power to do anyway. What happens to others is a product of their life choices and is not your responsibility. Take care and be kind to yourself, and never feel bad for doing this 🙂

Great response Boo;

Welcome to our forum! I haven't seen you on here before, that doesn't mean I don't care, just that we might run in different circles. Your words are well written and wise from specific experience I gather? Would you like to elaborate on this?

You started off by admitting you think of others first, then made some pretty amazing comments; Quote:

'You should always put yourself first and understand that this is not selfishness, it is survival. You are just as important as any other person and protecting yourself is often the only thing within your power to do anyway'

I agree totally. What I've found though, is I had to 'learn' boundaries and putting me first. It isn't as easy as one might think. It's a long winding road of trial and error, especially when I came from a childhood where 'big' people were more important than me..'little'.

I also think saying 'should' instead of 'could', may put pressure on us to do what's supposedly right, vs making a conscious decision/choice weighing up options and intent.

What do you think?

If you could use an event from your life that'd be great!


Thanks Sara, I am new here, earlier this month I was having a pretty hard time and know from the past that the more I withdraw, the harder things get... so I had a look on the website and posted a question. I received some lovely, thoughtful and heartfelt responses from the members here and it really helped. I thought whenever I am feeling up to it, I can help others in the same way you have all helped me, so I have kept posting wherever I thought I could help 🙂

I think a lot of my issues stem from my childhood. My father has (undiagnosed) NPD, and my mother... who knows! Needless to say their relationship was somewhat dysfunctional. They are also very religious (Mormons) and as a result, have a very 'traditional' view of gender roles. My dad was the head of the household and my mum was subservient to him. I think from a very young age I thought that women are not as important as men, and it has really caused me some issues in my own relationships. An ex-boyfriend of mine was emotionally, financially and even physically abusive. I was in a relationship with him for about 2.5 years. He ended up owing me over $11000, attempted (twice) to steal my dog, and at one point actually hurt me. There had been a few incidents previously where he had manhandled me but when he actually hurt me I finally realised and admitted to myself what was going on.

Fortunately I had 6 years of Kickboxing under my belt and I defended myself and was so glad to be able to do so and stop just being submissive, being a victim. I stood up for myself and am so proud of myself for that. After that I took out an intervention order against him and resolved never to allow that to happen again (not that abuse is ever the victims fault) but I knew that if there was any (comparatively minor) abuse in future, that I would leave that relationship immediately, before there was any chance of it escalating.

Slowly I am learning to treat myself with respect and show others how I expect to be treated. I may have had to learn the hard way but it was a very valuable lesson. No one has any right to mistreat another, there is just no excuse for that behaviour.

I just hope that as I have a little sister (13 years younger than me) that she will remember my example of standing up for myself and not my mother's example. I want her to be a strong, independent and confident woman who knows she deserves respect and puts herself first.

xoxo Boo

Hi Sara

Great post! So very true that in a relationship or friendship we seem to put ourselves 2nd instead of first. I feel that being of a sensitive nature I have been guilty of continually placing the needs of the other person first thus neglecting my own emotional well being. I have also done this working in corporate. Maybe my self worth was never at a healthy level or Im just a overly caring person

I have learned now that my own self deserves the best without question. Learning to like myself properly started with learning how important it is to say 'no' and then actioning that avenue of self appreciation/respect.

I dont think people have the ability to change or morph into another persona but I am convinced that we can use our background/mistakes to improve our lives and actually believe deeply in our soul that we are a priority.

Its a sense of balance that can be difficult to utilise. As with anything in life eradicating self doubt takes effort and continual practice. This site does offer people the opportunity to understand the importance of learning to find the greatness in ourselves without the automatic interference of past negative thought processes

Boo really covered the thread topic very well..Nice1 Boo!

my kind thoughts


Wow Paul!

I'm gob-smacked! You've outdone yourself on this one...absolutely great! You're on the money with grace and prowess my friend.

You know, you can be an amazing writer and today outdid yourself. And as for balance, you continually give on here to others as well as take timing for you when things go awry. (Recent events included)

You mentioned working in 'Corporate' and your self worth. Do you have anything specific to share? It'd be nice if you could elaborate. (just briefly if you like)

It's as Boo says re childhood upbringing. Our conditioning from parents, bosses, teachers and friends for instance, leave a lasting effect on us developing into and during adulthood. And yes, when there are abusive situations, we can stay or pick up and leave and learn from it; hopefully never having to go thru it again.

I do agree and disagree with putting ourselves 2nd in relationships or friendships. Being a caring person isn't a crime; in fact it's admirable. So please don't doubt this aspect of who you are. It's when we do it to our own detriment that's self defeating.

Thankyou so much Paul;

Sara xo

Just Sara
Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi again Boo;

Thanks for replying, and what a quality post woman! People who come from religious backgrounds can suffer the effects of spiritual abuse too. You seem to have survived and come out fighting with a vengeance, so kudos for this.

Having a narcissistic dad and a mum who complemented him must've created the perfect co dependent relationship. I guess it's a balancing act of sorts though. Did your mum ever protest or try to put herself first at some stage? More importantly, have you ever seen your mum in you? This is the question men and women alike often ask themselves when getting older. Men 'tend' to take after their dads, and vice versa for women. (Not written in stone mind you)

The relationship you found yourself in took a while to sink in. I've been there and know exactly what you mean. Once we do eventually see the light, it's often after the abuse has 'set in' and become the norm. Asking ourselves if we want to take current circumstances into our future usually gives way to reality.

In saying this though, physical abuse is a deal breaker! It only has to happen once and I make tracks. No excuse is acceptable. The emotional stuff is harder to pinpoint, especially when love 'conquers all'. Blah!!!

I'm so glad you've contributed Boo. It's refreshing when people learn from their mistakes; by that I mean thinking of themselves first and foremost when abuse 'hits' home. Pun intended.

You take care lovely...hope to hear from you soon.

Sara xo

It's so refreshing to post here and be surrounded by both positivity and understanding.

My parents are now divorced, after 28 years and 3 children it is very sad, but admittedly it was the best thing to do. Their relationship had failed many many years before that and once it got to a certain point there was really no way to save it. I think that had they recognised their faults earlier and sought help via counselling or even by having frank discussions with trusted friends (my dad forbade talking about 'family matters' outside of our own family and was very resistant to talking to a professional because he was unwilling to admit there was anything wrong. I am glad that my mum put her foot down after my father admitted to an emotional affair (although that was all he would admit to there are still suspicions there was more to it than that) but I do wish she had the courage to leave long before that. I feel that for myself and my sisters, the damage was already done.

Their involvement in their church played a big part in them staying married for much too long as the Mormons frown upon divorce, even in cases of infidelity and abuse. The church is a patriarchy, and this model influences their views on family structure too. If you take for example their (now illegal) practice of polygamy, in their doctrine men could marry multiple women, but women could not marry multiple men. Only men can hold key positions in their church (priests/bishops etc) and bishops are given authority to counsel members of their ward despite the fact that they have no training or qualifications. The 'boys club' stick together, and often shame women if they are considering leaving their husbands and claim that they will be condemned etc by god.

This is definitely spiritual abuse in my books. Another thing that I am very proud of is having the strength to get out of that cult and never look back. When my little sister came to me a few years ago and asked for my help to tell my mum she didn't want to go to church anymore and didn't believe, I was so relieved that she saw the hypocrisy and recognised it was wrong. I never tried to influence her because she was young and I didn't think it would be fair to confuse her. She just knew that I didn't go to church. When she told me she didn't believe I could finally tell her all my reasons and she told me all of hers. It was one of the best moments of my life 🙂

Hey Boo and thankyou Sara for the post and the ton (not tonne) of encouragement 🙂

Boo, if I can quote you re your little sister please;

"I never tried to influence her because she was young and I didn't think it would be fair to confuse her"

You have an innate sense of clarity and fairness and you should be very proud of the kind heart you possess

Like your parents, mine separated after 49 years of marriage. We were so happy as the never ending fighting stopped....it was like a major relief.

my kind thoughts Boo...great to have you on the forums 🙂

Paulxo (excuse I for hijacking your thread Sara)

Community Member

Thank-you Paul. I think I realised that it was unfair for my parents to indoctrinate us as children into their church. I understand most of the time this is how it works, if your parents are Catholic, you are raised Catholic, if your parents are Muslim, you are raised Muslim etc but I think it is really wrong to make such a huge decision for your children before they are old enough to understand the implications. I will never do this to anyone.

Now that she is older and knows her own mind, it is ok to have discussions with her even if we disagree because I don't have as much influence over her. Now she has friends, family, teachers, mentors etc that she can draw influence from, therefore she can decide what she is comfortable with and what she believes in.

I am very shocked that your parents separated after 49 years of marriage!!!! I don't understand how people can decide to get married (surely they loved each other at the time) but then let their love die... for me it is not divorce that is sad, it's that people let it get to that stage where divorce is the only option. I think if you have decided to get married, you owe it to yourself and your partner (and children) to keep your love alive. No-one wants to live in a loveless marriage, no-one wants to fight all the time. People need to do more to prevent things from getting to this stage in the first place...

Look at me here on my soap box, it is obviously much easier said than done... I have never been married so its easy for me to preach about it!!! I will never get married unless my partner feels the same way, it takes two so if my partner isn't willing to keep the love alive it will be impossible for me to do it on my own.

I am really enjoying conversing with intelligent, kind and genuine people. It's so uplifting and has really helped me feel connected. I really struggle to find people like you in the 'real world' but it is nice to know there are definitely good people out there 🙂