8 Ways Life Improves When You Value and Prioritize Yourself

“Every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, ‘This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!’ And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart, and say, ‘No. This is what’s important.’” ~Iain Thomas

As someone who believes in the healing power of self-care, I absolutely love this quote. But I didn’t always believe it was true. And it didn’t feel good to do it.

My heart was too tender to be touched for long. And for years, it seemed to be empty. I didn’t feel pleasure. I didn’t feel passion. I didn’t feel love or hope or joy. I just felt numb from years of suppressing my emotions. And my feelings and needs didn’t feel important to me because I didn’t believe I was important.

I suspect a lot of people are living some variation of this story, even if they’re not consciously aware of it. Because none of us get through our childhoods unscathed. And many of us go into adulthood with mounds of unresolved trauma, resultant low self-worth, and an arsenal of anesthetizing coping mechanisms to keep the pain at bay.

We don’t prioritize the things that we need to thrive because we’re too busy surviving.

It would be easy to blame the world for dragging us by the hand, because it does—oh, how it does. There are bills to be paid, and requests to be honored, and all the million little things we feel we need to do and figure out before we can finally take a break and breathe.

But we also drag ourselves all around, trying to do it all and be everything to everyone, because it’s easier than facing ourselves. It’s easier than facing our deepest pains.

And it’s easier than acknowledging the truth—which would set us free if we could only admit and address it: We simply don’t value ourselves enough to prioritize ourselves.

Maybe because we blame ourselves for pain from the past. Or because we don’t think we’ve accomplished enough to earn kindness and care. Or maybe because we’ve learned that good people put everyone else first, and we desperately want to be good people—loveable people. All were true for me.

But I think that’s the point of the quote. That our most important work is to heal the wounds that cause us to devalue ourselves so we can then prioritize ourselves enough to figure out what we need to do to feel and be our best.

For years I tried to make my life better, starting by making myself better, but nothing changed until I believed I deserved better.

When you believe you deserve better, you commit to creating it, and you keep going when it’s hard because you know you’re worth it. And oh, how life expands when you do.

When you start valuing and prioritizing yourself…

1. You’ll start feeling calmer, more energized, and more fulfilled because you’ll be meeting more of your needs.

The hardest thing about being the kind of person who puts everyone else first is that you never feel like you’re doing enough, even when you’re giving all you have. So you not only try to do everything you can for everyone else, but you also try to make them all comfortable and happy—which is impossible, so you generally feel neither.

When you make yourself a top priority, you’ll figure out what you need to feel comfortable and happy first. And you’ll give yourself permission to do those things without carrying the weight of everyone else’s feelings and problems, as if it’s your responsibility to fix them.

Then, instead of trying to fill your tank with quick-burning fuel of approval, you’ll fill it with the kind of things that truly nourish you, which, for me, includes movement, creativity, and time in nature.

2. You’ll experience the joy of growing and exploring new possibilities as you invest in yourself and your potential instead of spending money on distractions that leave you feeling empty.

When you decide that your top priority is to take care of yourself and your needs, you’ll feel more confident about investing in yourself—whether that means undergoing training for a more rewarding career or going to therapy to start healing from your trauma.

Instead of spending your money on Band-Aids that barely cover your pain and overall life dissatisfaction, you’ll devote your time, energy, and resources to addressing those things so that you no longer feel the need to numb yourself.

3. You’ll prioritize healing and feel more at peace with yourself, your past, and others as a result.

As you work on healing from pains from the past, you’ll find it easier to forgive the people who hurt you. And because you value and want to honor yourself, you’ll recognize this doesn’t have to mean allowing them back into your life. It can simply mean releasing your anger and resentment toward them—which is a lot easier to do when they no longer have access to continually hurt you.

Healing will also allow you to see your past through an entirely different lens, with a deeper understanding of who and what shaped you and more empathy toward the little version of you who always did their best and has always been deserving of love and respect.

4. You’ll feel proud of yourself instead of ashamed because, through healing, you’ll be able to forgive yourself for things you could have done better and focus on doing better now.

As you build that empathy for your younger self, you’ll also grow your empathy for your present self, and your relationship with yourself will transform. You’ll start to focus more on what you’re doing right than what you think you’re doing wrong, giving you more and more reasons to feel good about yourself.

You’ll simultaneously find it easier to forgive yourself when you struggle, and you’ll start seeing your missteps as opportunities to learn instead of beating yourself up and stewing in regret. This means you’ll bounce back more quickly, with confidence in what you can do differently going forward, which will make it a lot easier to actually make those changes.

5. You’ll feel more connected to yourself and start to trust yourself more as you make time and space to hear your intuition.

When you start allowing yourself time to just be—releasing the pressure to constantly do and achieve—you’ll find it easier to hear the voice of your intuition. Which means you’ll get clearer insight into what might be good for you, in all areas of your life.

As you act on this insight and see (at least some) positive results, you’ll develop a deeper sense of trust in yourself. Trust that enables you to make big decisions you might otherwise avoid in fear of making the “wrong” choice.

You’ll also spend less time worrying about what other people think because it will feel far less relevant when you’re guided by what you know.

6. Your relationships will become more of a source of pleasure than pain because you’ll set boundaries with people who hurt you and let them go if they refuse to stop.

When you put your own peace, happiness, and well-being at the top of your priority list, you’ll start setting clearer boundaries about what’s acceptable in your relationships.

You’ll also find the courage to speak up when someone crosses your boundaries because you’ll know that protecting your heart and your energy is worth the discomfort of confrontation.

That’s not to say your relationships will always be effortless and fun. People will still stress and disappoint you, just as you’ll sometimes stress and disappoint them, because we’re all only human.

But you won’t say, “No worries” when someone’s behavior fills you with fear or “It’s okay” when you know in your gut it’s not. And when someone disrespects or mistreats you for the umpteenth time, you’ll find the strength to say, “No more”—which means you’ll spend a lot less time justifying and recovering from their behavior and more time enjoying people who treat you well.

7. Your days will feel more enjoyable and exciting because you’ll be using more of your time on things that matter to you.

The more time and space you allot for yourself, the more energy you’ll be able to devote to the things that matter to you. The things that make you feel excited to be alive. Your passions and interests and new possibilities—or the pursuit of discovering what brings you joy if you have no idea what that might be.

Because other people also matter to you, you’ll still devote time and energy to them, but you’ll know it’s okay if it’s notjust about them. That you can suggest things to do or places to go or ask for their support at times.

This isn’t just about filling time you previously didn’t have available to you. It’s also about enjoying more of your time because you’ll no longer feel guilty about doing less for everyone else, or at least you’ll feel less anxious about it because you’ll know you’re honoring one of your top priorities—yourself.

8. You’ll feel physically stronger, mentally clearer, and more emotionally balanced.

When you address your needs, invest in your happiness and healing, and make choices to honor and support yourself, you’ll notice improvements in every aspect of your health—physical, mental, and emotional.

Because instead of merely surviving as you deal with the varied consequences of neglecting and devaluing yourself, you’ll be thriving through the process of taking care good care of yourself.

And it will become a self-perpetuating cycle—because you feel better, you’ll continually do better, and then feel even better as a result. Unlike the opposite cycle that might be more familiar—when you feel bad, continually do things you feel bad about, and then feel worse as a result.

This doesn’t mean you’ll always feel great and will never struggle again. You’ll still be human, after all. But you’ll feel a lot more confident in your capacity to get through your difficult times and make the best of every hardship you face because you’ll be acting from a stable foundation of inner strength forged through self-support and care.

Maybe you’ve already experienced some of these things. And maybe, like me, you feel like the path to prioritizing yourself has often been a journey of two steps forward and one step back—or one step forward and two steps back.

Healing isn’t a linear process. We grow, we stumble, we disappoint ourselves, then hopefully forgive ourselves so we can get back up and try again, one small step at a time.

The important thing is that we keep taking those steps, even if we get knocked down for a while.

That we face our pains instead of numbing them. Honor our needs instead of ignoring them. Acknowledge the things that aren’t working instead of settling on them. And most importantly, continually challenge the voice within that tells us we need to do or be more to be worthy of love and care.

Once upon a time I thought my heart was numb because of everything that had happened to me. Then I realized that was the past, and I was the one numbing it in the present by treating myself worse than anyone else ever had.

I only came alive when I stopped telling myself I didn’t matter and started working on believing I did—which started with treating myself like I did. One loving act of self-care at a time.

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