Ranjana TN

The permission to prioritize yourself

People say, “Oh you’re so selfish. You’re pleasing you.” And what they mean is “You should please me.” You’re selfish because you please you – and I’m not selfish because I think you should please me instead of you? There’s some screwy reasoning going on. And every time it matters to you to please them instead of you, oh it’s such short-term gain, such short-term gain.


Do you ever feel guilty for prioritizing yourself? I know I do and more often than I’d like to admit! It feels so selfish to not put others first…it’s important to be there for them, yes? What sort of a friend/daughter/coworker/leader am I if I’m not prioritizing those that are important to me?

The price of putting others before you…when you don’t really want to

Here’s the thing though…think about what happens to your thoughts and emotions – both towards yourself and the other person – when you decide to prioritize them and not yourself. Do you feel good? If yes – and that’s the only emotion you feel – then honestly, I think you did the right thing. If, however, you feel even the teensiest bit of resentment towards the other person, you are not only doing yourself harm by harbouring negative feelings but also a disservice to the other person by pretending to be okay about prioritizing them when you’re actually not.

Think of this from another angle. Let’s say you’re the one who’s seeking help from another person. You find out that they actually want to prioritize some other activity (even if it’s doing nothing). Would you be okay if they still went ahead and helped you out? I bet not. You’d want the other person to do something because they want to do it and aren’t helping you through gritted teeth, right? Also, you’d appreciate them being honest with you rather than secretly feeling resentful towards you.

This applies only when what you want to do and what the other person is requesting of you are divergent. There are many situations when you actually want to help the other person. You don’t mind the inconvenience; in fact, you don’t look at it as an inconvenience at all. For eg., let’s say that you have a little son who’s dependent on you. Prioritizing him is a priority for you! You may help out a friend in need monetarily. While that might be an inconvenience, it’s your priority to help your friend and you want to do it.

We aren’t discussing these scenarios. We’re talking about all those times when you’d rather say no and do something you want to do. But you say yes instead.

Here are a few examples of areas where you should absolutely prioritize yourself. Most of these are things I’ve either learnt the hard way or seen someone really close to me go through an experience that opened my eyes.

  1. The work you do. Prioritize what you want to do. Don’t succumb to prioritizing what your parents, partners, or friends expect of you. If you don’t do what you want to do, the consequence will be regret, uninspired way of living, or resentment. Even if you later decide that you want to switch to a different line of work, that’s totally okay. Making mistakes or changing your mind is not something to be afraid of or ashamed about. When I was 20, I decided that I wanted to become a professional dancer. I was a gold medalist at my university and had even received a scholarship from The Department of Science and Technology, India to pursue a master’s degree in Physics. But my heart called me to immerse myself in the world of dance. Two years later, I decided that being a professional dancer wasn’t my cup of tea. Do I regret not having taken up the scholarship and think that going into dance was the wrong choice? No! It was absolutely the right thing to do. Had I not pursued that dream, I’d forever be haunted with the ‘what if I had pursued dance?’ question.
  2. The person you choose for a partner or when you get married…and if you want to get married. I come from a culture where ‘arranged marriages‘ are common. Not only that, but women are also pressured to get married at a fairly young age. Irrespective of which country you live in, choose your partner wisely. You need to truly prioritize yourself and ask who’d be the right match for you at a given point in time. It’s astounding how astray we can be led by others’ opinions of who is right for us. Listen – no one knows who’s good for you other than yourself. So please don’t succumb to external pressure. The same goes for the age at which you should get married or whether you should get married at all. It’s seriously none of anyone else’s business.
  3. Your social circle. There’s a saying, “Tell me who are your friends, and I’ll tell you who you are”. For heaven’s sake don’t fall into peer pressure here. Your social circle matters. Prioritize yourself and choose friends who will uplift you and help you become a better version of yourself. Honouring your vision of who you want to become is far more important than loyalty to friends who are no longer serving the highest vision of you. Let go with love and move on to better connections.
  4. Your beliefs. This is a tricky one, but let me elaborate. Tom Bilyeu says, “Do and believe that which moves you towards your goals”. Here’s a great video of him talking about it. Prioritize your highest vision of you when it comes to the beliefs you hold. Don’t succumb to thoughts that keep you from moving towards your goals. Adopt beliefs that are empowering and will help you become the highest vision of yourself.

Why should you prioritize yourself?

Why indeed? The only way to ensure that you’re sculpting the life you want for yourself is by prioritizing you. Do you think Gandhi or Mandela…or even your closest friend would be able to make any of their dreams a reality if they put anyone else’s needs or asks before their own? You need to put yourself first to make your dreams a reality. By all means, be there for others. But be there for yourself too. Sometimes, you don’t prioritize yourself because you feel that, somehow, your dreams and goals are of lesser importance than those of others. Or maybe you have chosen to believe others who tell you that their dreams are more important than yours. Go read the quote at the start of this post and let it sink in.

You matter. Your life matters. Your goals matter. However big or small they may be.

Give yourself the permission to prioritize yourself.