From little children on we are taught to put other people before ourselves; respect your elders, share your toys etc., and while good manners are important, somewhere it translated into something very bad. We learned over time to devalue ourselves and our needs. This has led to extremely poor behavior such as, depression and anxiety.
This emotional climate has given birth to more narcissist than ever before. You might be asking me, aren't you suggesting narcissist behavior, if you want me and others to put ourselves first? The answer is no. I do suggest self-love whereas the root of narcissism is self-doubt and self-loathing with that comes the need to artificially inflate by being boastful and/or manipulate others to see them in a certain way. True self love requires no validation from any other source.
I am, of course, speaking solely from my own experiences and observations in life. It took me decades to conclude that I should have been placing my own needs before those of other people all along. The truth of the matter is that when I ignore my needs it only leaves me empty and unable to assist those I care about the most, or even strangers for that matter.
I now often refer to what I call "airport wisdom" you know, the instructions they give you in the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure. We all know it, oxygen masks will drop down and they are adamant that if you are wanting to assist others, such as small children, you must first secure your oxygen mask before attempting to assist anyone else. That really says it all to me, I have spent my life assisting others and often to my own detriment.
I adore helping people, it really is second nature to me, both loved ones as well as total strangers. Uplifting is my thing and I enjoy being helpful. Historically my needs came last, if in fact, I considered them at all. That never felt right to me nor should feel right to anybody. I think we have gotten it all backwards, stick with me here on this part, when you take care of yourself you are able to take care of others, it is just that simple.
You might be saying, well that is all fine and well, but I still don't feel right about putting myself first. This is clearly the result of years and years of conditioning. There have been many times in my past when friends or family have asked me for assistance and I would always say yes, despite my own circumstances. After years of people constantly asking for my help, I began to get angry with them for constantly putting me in a stressed-out situation. Backwards thinking again, it was not them that I was upset with but mad at myself for not putting my needs first.
I suspect many people do exactly the same thing, I have learned over time, it wasn't even really benefiting another to always be in a position of needing to be "helped out" an likely stunted their abilities to tap into their own resourcefulness. Now that I am paying more attention to how I feel and meeting my needs first I find myself relaxed and happy even during COVID if you can imagine that?
My advice is cafeteria style; take what you want and leave the rest. The reason to focus on your needs first is not just to benefit those around but simply to be joyful, so stay happy and well.