Most children are brought up to be kind and respectful of other people. At least this should be the goal. Ideally, they’re taught to consider others’ feelings and help those in need. Yet strangely enough, when it comes to things like self-care and taking care of ourselves, many of us lack the ability to put our own needs first.

For many of us, the concept of self-care is a foreign concept. For most, the idea of putting our own needs first feels somehow wrong, or even selfish. 

The good news is that it’s never too late to learn to treat yourself; to put yourself first in a healthy, energizing way.

Here’s a couple strategies to help rewire your brain so it becomes increasingly easier to put yourself first.


Self-Care is Mastering The art of Saying No


Learning how to say no is the first step in self-care.


Being a caring and compassionate person is wonderful, but sacrificing yourself by saying “yes” all the time to other people’s needs will deplete your energy, build resentment in your relationships, and ultimately burn you out. And when you’re burned out, you’re not very caring and compassionate toward anyone – let alone yourself.

Learning to set boundaries and say “No” isn’t just your right, it’s your responsibility. No one else will do it for you so you need to start increasing your comfort with discomfort because saying “No” for many people creates discomfort. 

Remember saying “No” doesn’t actually have to involve saying “No.”

Try these on for size:

“I appreciate you thinking of me, but unfortunately I’m unable to commit.”

“I’m sorry, but I’m not comfortable with that.”

“I appreciate the offer, however right now I’m overcommitted.”

“This sounds lovely, but unfortunately I don’t think I can make it work.”


Self-Care is Asking for Help


Asking for help is an important part of any self-care plan.


If you’re accustomed to being in the role of helping others, it can feel uncomfortable asking for help when you need it. After all, you’re the one people go to when in need.

However, remember this; all these people coming to you for help feel no shame or discomfort in asking for it. They need help, they ask for it, they get it. It’s that simple.

Once you release the pressure you’ve put on yourself to handle everything alone, you’re likely to feel a huge weight lifted.


Self-Care is Self-Awareness


Getting to know your inner self is a must if you’re going to have an effective self-care plan.


Do you know what makes you tick? Your likes and dislikes? People who are wired to neglect their own needs don’t typically know themselves very well. Knowing oneself is seen as a luxury they can’t afford.

Self-care requires you get to know yourself. Take some time to discover what you enjoy. Once you find what it is that pleases you, commit to doing it more often. Having more pleasure and satisfaction in your life will make you a happier person. 

Taking these actions will have a tremendous impact on your life. As you get better and better at putting your needs first, you will feel happier and more empowered. You will know, deep down, that your own needs matter and you are worth the effort.

Some people have a tremendously hard time with these exercises because they have a very low self-esteem and are people-pleasers. The longer you’ve lived with a low self-esteem, the harder it is to make positive changes.


Life is hard. But it’s a lot harder if you don’t learn to put your oxygen mask on first. If you’re struggling to figure how to take care of yourself and stop putting everyone else first, find an awesome therapist you like and trust to help teach you how.


James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in Greater New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.