Be good to yourself: discover the importance of putting yourself first

In association with American Express

If we’ve learned anything recently, it’s the importance of kindness. Being kind to others, but also recognising the need to be kind to ourselves. This can mean treating ourselves to a special little something or making choices that centre on what we’d like to do ahead of accommodating another person.

All too often, whether it’s at work, in our family dynamics or our friendships, we don’t give ourselves a break - and we certainly don’t prioritise our needs. At least, we didn’t. Over the last couple of years, many of us have shifted our priorities and mindsets substantially.

We’re finally recognising that deciding we want more for ourselves can create new opportunities and experiences that add richness and depth to our lives and relationships.

Radical self-care is nothing new, and in 2021 we’re again recognising how impactful it can be when we make choices that centre our needs.

While we are told to put ourselves first a hundred different ways - the oxygen mask going on yourself before others comes to mind - it’s not always so straightforward to know where to start. Here are a few ideas to make some changes that not only help you look after yourself but improve your relationships with those around you.

Master the art of setting boundaries

In many ways, the shift to more hybrid and remote working models has opened our eyes to the benefits of making our own schedules and spending more time with friends and family, or just going for a stroll outdoors when we need a breath.

Learning how to say “no thanks” and setting clear boundaries is one of the simplest ways to start treating yourself and putting yourself first - but if you’re not used to doing it, you need to train yourself as you would with any other skill. Technology can help, especially if you find your desire to people-please tempts you to take on more than is realistic. Setting alerts and blocking out hours that you’re busy, along with a response time of when you’ll get back to people, can take a huge emotional load off. And of course, this also translates to friendships, relationships, volunteering, stressful social situations and all other aspects of your life.

Treat yourself… just because

When was the last time you took yourself out to dinner? Or bought yourself a book to read while luxuriating in bed?

Normalising the idea of rewarding yourself on a regular basis can have psychological benefits and a “treat” can be as simple as meditating in the middle of the day, having a relaxing bath, booking theatre tickets or ordering a takeaway because you feel like it. Normalising treats that aren’t “stuff” but experiences (a long walk, a wild swim or a show) is also a good idea for anyone stressed out by over-consumption and clutter.

Ask for help when you need it

Every top entrepreneur, athlete and business leader talks about how instrumental their teams are to their success, yet so often, we feel we need to do it all on our own - or try to - whether that’s parenting without childcare or taking on a new career challenge. Prioritising yourself and your needs involves recognising that you don’t have to do it all alone, especially if you’re entering a period of reckoning when it comes to your values, work or goals.

Recognising the difference between when a friend’s advice can help and when you might need more (i.e. a life coach, therapist, career coach, etc.) can also save your relationships by ensuring you don’t put too much pressure on them. In addition to in-person support, community groups, women’s circles, etc, there are endless tech tools you can now use to help, from virtual assistants to meditation and sleep apps and online fitness communities.