Do you put yourself first? If you're like most people, you don't. You run around, juggling too many projects and random life demands. You often feel over busy or stressed -- maybe even frantic -- yet it doesn't feel like much is getting done. Your life balance is out of whack.

Step One on the road to balance is to put yourself first. There's a reason why airlines instruct us to "put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others with theirs." You can't help anyone else if you've passed out from lack of air. By the same token, you can't tend to all the people, projects and ideas on your plate until you first attend to your own needs.

Let's try an experiment: What if I told you to stop what you're doing RIGHT NOW and put yourself first. What would be your reaction? Relief (Gosh, you mean I can?) -- Incredulity (You must be joking! I can't possibly!) -- Anger (How dare you even suggest it?) -- Frustration (I'd really like to but there's no way I can) -- Fear (I'm afraid people will think I'm being selfish) -- or something else?

Why do you think you responded that way? Whose voice(s) do you hear in your head? What unhelpful beliefs are interfering with putting yourself first? Take a few moments and write them down. For example, "If I don't work myself to the bone and struggle with ever fiber of my being, I won't earn my success." "Nice people put others first." "A good parent/spouse/colleague puts themselves last." "I don't have time to read/exercise/meditate." "There aren't enough hours in the day to attend to all aspects of my life properly."

Once you've identified the nature of the unhelpful beliefs interfering with your life balance, you can address them. For each, look for evidence to the contrary. "Well, come to think of it, there is no law that one must struggle to succeed. I tend to do much better when I'm enjoying what I do, actually. And when I look around at my friends who are doing well -- and even my role models -- they're not stressed out, pushing. They're not being martyrs. In fact I think my martyrdom has hurt some relationships, if I were truthful."

Now: ask yourself what are the costs of NOT putting yourself first. Your first clue is probably in how you reacted to my first question -- anger, resentment, fear, negativity, pessimism. It ain't pretty. Have you ever experienced a lopsided relationship (personal or professional) -- or muted your ideas or creativity unnecessarily -- or otherwise played the Doormat Role? I'm sure your intentions have been noble. You're probably a People Pleaser. It's one thing to be kind, respectful and's quite another when you allow others to take advantage of you...or get swept away in their plans, losing sight of your own.

So how to start operating differently? How can you put yourself first?

1. Make a conscious decision to honor your own needs.

What's important to you? What makes you happy? Fulfilled? Write theme down. Remind yourself of these priorities every day. (It may seem silly but without deliberate daily reminders, we quickly slip back into old habits).

2. Give yourself time.

How much 'YOU' time do you have each day? Each week? How can you give yourself more time? (Please see my Time Management article on how to do a detailed time analysis).

3. Nourish your ideas.

Your ideas are your greatest asset. Tend them with care. Be their advocate: Support them and protect them from being trampled unnecessarily.

4. Listen to your body.

Your body always knows what you need. It detects when you're hungry or thirsty or sleepy or in danger. Being attentive to our biological needs is a fundamental part of putting yourself first. If you're feeling stressed or achy or fatigued, take a break. Ask your body what you need: it might be a walk in nature or a nap or an apple...or a week in Fiji.

As well, your body can cut through the confusion of too many 'to do's'. Our brains can hijack our actions and attention in a million directions, built on a thousand random rationales. But a 'gut feeling' is infallible. If you listen to your gut, it will reveal which is the best idea, which path is crazy making and which is a delight, which person is dangerous or draining and which is a kindred spirit. If you find yourself over-thinking things, try listening to your gut instinct.

5. Treat yourself well.

How do you treat your friends and loved ones? Do you speak to them kindly? Do you support their endeavors? Do you buy them gifts or do special things for them or take them interesting places? NOW: how do you treat yourself? How do you talk to yourself? What's your tone like? Do you call yourself names or berate yourself needlessly? Do you support or sabotage your creative efforts? Do you get yourself the support you need? Do you take good care of yourself -- physically, psychologically and/or spiritually? Do you buy yourself presents or do special things for yourself or take yourself interesting places? Why not?

6. Reward yourself.

When you accomplish something, do you do anything to acknowledge it...or do you plow right onto the next thing? By rewarding yourself for the things you do, you'll be happier and so much more productive.


Activity: Clear at least 30 uninterrupted minutes. Use this article as a mini-coaching session: go through all the questions and write down your answers. Be as candid as possible. What patterns do you notice? What actions can you take, going forward, to put yourself first?


In the comment section below, please tell me how you put yourself first -- or what challenges you face in putting yourself first.


(c) Liisa Kyle, Ph.D.


If you’d like to share or publish this article, you may, if you include the author’s name (Liisa Kyle, Ph.D.), copyright notice and the following text blurb:

Are you struggling with too many talents, skills, ideas? You may have The Da Vinci Dilemma™! Find tools, fun quizzes, coaching, inspiration and solutions for multi-talented people at

Author's Bio: 

Liisa Kyle, Ph.D. is the go-to coach for smart, creative people who want to overcome challenges, get organized, get things done and get more out of life (

Liisa Kyle is also an internationally published writer/editor/photographer as well as author of books including "YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE: A Workbook to Become the Person You Want to Be" Available here:

If you are a creative person with too many ideas and too much to do, check out her other helpful articles here: