You Can't Pour From an Empty Cup: Why You Need to Put Yourself First

By Reniel


Last Updated: October 6, 2021

Don’t allow others to consume you. If they don’t call, go to sleep. If they don’t message you, put away your phone and have a blessed day. If they are distant and refuse to tell you what’s wrong, go home and do something fun. You live for yourself first. They are secondary. - Unknown

Perhaps it sounds too harsh, or maybe a bit too selfish, but it is none of those. In fact, it is the opposite of those.

Most people misinterpret it when you say, “put yourself first” to mean “be selfish”. It doesn’t mean that you are self-absorbed and don’t care about other people, but that you have healthy boundaries.

Need to practice some self-love? Check out this article next! Why You Come First? The Importance of Self-Love


What Does it Mean to Put Yourself First? 

Putting yourself first means you know: 

  • What your responsibilities are, and what they are not.
  • What is within your control and what is not.
  • Your duty.
  • The duty of others.

In fact, trying to be another person’s superhero actually spoils the person you are going all out for. It can make them helpless, weak, and dependent. Other times, it simply diminishes your joy and quality of life. Either way - not good.

People must be allowed to take care of their own problems – including kids.

If you always carry the baby, the baby would never learn to walk. You must allow them to struggle when it is necessary. Keeping the baby from injuring themselves is your responsibility, what is not your responsibility is always bringing the toy to them. 

A lot of people grow up with unhealthy mindsets. A lot of people have boundary issues and this means that sometimes they would expect you to do their work for them. It is not your job.


You Don't Have to Do Everything for Others

Putting yourself first is all about a question of prioritizing, and understanding your obligations – and those that are not.

You don't have to: 

  • Give someone something that would harm you.
  • Say “Yes” to another task when your schedule is already packed full.
  • Accept the invite when you have to work the next morning or kids who are starving for your attention.
  • Insist on knowing what is bothering someone if they are not willing to share.

Even when the people you care about hold back, you should let them be – it is their decision, and you have shown you cared. You don’t have to beat yourself up for someone else’s internal struggles.

Depending on your values, your priorities can range from your health, family, job/business first, then the community and the rest of the world. First things must be first – then others.


Why Putting Yourself First Is Important

The truth is that everything and everyone is connected.

Your self-care practices would ultimately put you in a good position to do your job, which then enables you to take care of your family.

Your family (which is now well taken care of) would go on to become part of a larger community. That community would proceed to interact with the rest of the world – in a healthy and constructive way. 

They say “charity begins at home.” Perhaps, it should have been, “charity begins within you." If you don’t love yourself, how can you love others? Love yourself enough to put yourself first.

Ignoring your mental, physical, or emotional health would affect your family and even the person/organization who wants to distract you from that obligation you owe yourself. The obligation of doing the best for, and taking care of yourself. 

You must learn to take care of yourself first because as the cliché goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup."

In other words, enrich yourself first, in order to be able to enrich others.


5 Easy Ways to Start Putting Yourself First

1. Take Care Of Your Body

This involves eating right, and healthy, as well as working out regularly. You must give your body the nutrients it needs, and keep it lively with exercise.

2. Positive Self-Talk

The things you say to your ears are as important as the things you eat with your mouth. You must learn to not always criticize yourself but to encourage and speak positivity to yourself. 

3. Rest

As much as work is important, you don’t have to work yourself to death. Learn to take breaks and even vacations.

To do this, you can set milestones that you want to hit, after which you are entitled to treat yourself. When it is time for your treat – sleep, vacation, or recreations – don’t let anything rob you of that. 

4. Values

Before you take any course of action, ensure that it perfectly aligns with your values. You don’t have to do anything that makes you feel terrible. No matter how much others seem to justify it.  

5. Goals

You also have to ensure that your actions align with your goals – or at least, that they don’t deter or distract you from them.

There are a lot of good courses/ambitions/goals to engage in, and even pour your resources into (time, money, and energy). But you have to put yourself first, by clearly defining which aligns with your goals, and then sticking to those – forsaking all others.

You “can’t” decide to commandeer space exploration, revolutionize car travel, and take care of 7 kids all at once – (Unless, of course, you are Elon Musk - and you can bet he has a lot of help and boundaries.)

Put Yourself First

Anyway, you get the gist. For any of these to happen, you must not allow other people’s opinions, and emotional manipulations to get to you.

Remember you are the primary character in this movie called “your life”, and all others are secondary – so, keep it that way. You don’t have to ignore them or make them your antagonists, but you don’t have to lose yourself for them either. Put yourself first.  

Photo by Valeria Boltneva from Pexels


4 comments on “You Can't Pour From an Empty Cup: Why You Need to Put Yourself First”

  1. I value your opinion on this matter and others. I also like to read. please send me mlike these. I am very interested in reading all your posts and advises. thank you for posting this to me I appreciated.

  2. I really like your take on this. I totally agree with you. My partner make it her life purpose to advocate for the indigenous people. I am not against it but sometimes I find her getting drain by it. When I bring this up to her, she always think I am selfish for putting myself first.

  3. Thank you for this. It is immensely beneficial to be reminded of the importance & necessity of personal boundaries. You put all this beautifully into perspective for us - it confirms the right path/direction for our lives, where we need to put our energy first and foremost, delineates what is ours and others, and how it is ok to follow our bliss. Meaning - see what contributes to our well-being, sanity & inward peace & harmony. 👏

  4. Thanks for the reminder because sometimes it seems like it's your job to save everyone when they were the ones who put themselves in a messy situation. I cannot pour from an empty cup and I deserve my peace of mind. Thank you so much!

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