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Is Being Loyal to Yourself First Selfish?

By Linda Wattier August 15, 2023 Mindset

Were you taught, like I was, that placing your needs before those of others is selfish, unkind, or unloving?

Did you learn that being a devoted daughter, partner, mother, wife, or caregiver – while shouldering all the emotional labor – was the most honorable work of all?

Were you conditioned to believe your worth lies in your self-sacrifice and commitment to care for others?

It sounds harsh, but this overblown belief has persisted throughout the ages – especially in women and around motherhood. It can leave us feeling unseen, drained, and devoid of the self-knowledge we need to grow and evolve.

Which is what happened to me. By the time I reached my mid-40s, I felt depleted, unhappy, and stuck, with no clue what would make me feel better.

It was crazy-making because my life looked good on the outside, the way I thought it was supposed to look.

One fine day, I realized my relentless pursuit of everyone else’s approval had hindered my loyalty to myself and stunted my growth.

It took many years of practice, but I finally found my way to where I am now – someone who still cares for others but is loyal to herself first.

Forging a New Trail

If you’re not quite there yet, this might help.

Know Yourself Well

We often understand others but overlook our own sources of joy and what brings us to life. Even if we recognize our sources of happiness, how often do we prioritize them?

Dedicate some quiet time for reflection and ask yourself, “Who am I today, and what do I want for my life now?”

My self-loyalty led me to embrace my sensitive, introverted nature and free myself from seeking approval through overly extroverted behavior.

Today I decline social invitations that would drain my energy. And I refrain from self-criticism for honoring myself. We miss the point if we take steps to care for ourselves but then berate or judge ourselves as lazy, selfish, or “weird.”

Cultivate Self-Compassion

For many of us, loving ourselves is a challenge. We often display harsher attitudes toward ourselves than we would ever exhibit toward others.

Take a moment to observe the way you speak to yourself. Do you offer encouragement and congratulations, or do you criticize and admonish?

Being loyal to yourself entails treating yourself with tenderness, kindness, forgiveness, and generosity. It means recognizing and acknowledging your strengths rather than focusing on perceived shortcomings.

Treat yourself like you would treat a good friend.

Honor Your Own Emotions

We’re often sensitive to others’ feelings while disregarding or downplaying our own. Honoring our emotions doesn’t imply acting on them inappropriately or indulging in self-pity.

Instead, it means acknowledging our feelings and affording them the same significance we give to those of others. Prioritizing your feelings over incessantly trying to decipher those of others is liberating.

People are drawn to those who are open and forthright. Such individuals create an atmosphere of trust without hidden agendas.

Sometimes when we yearn to be “selfish,” it means we have been highly selfless for too long.

In the book Untamed, best-selling author Glennon Doyle writes, “Selfless women make for an efficient society but not a beautiful, true, or just one. When women lose themselves, the world loses its way.”

Since I stopped worrying so much about others’ expectations and started following my own desires more, life is full of creative and joyful energy.

I’ve noticed other outcomes as well.

The Ripple Effects

If you follow the above and stay true to yourself, here is what you will gain.

Authenticity Flourishes

We can reveal our true selves when we’re less concerned with how others perceive us. Not everyone will like us when we’re living as our authentic selves, but those who do will love and accept us for who we are instead of the mask we wear to please others.

And truth be told, this authentic version of us is far more captivating.

We forfeit so much when we exchange authenticity for societal approval. Our spontaneity and enthusiasm for life are stifled, and we lose faith in our own judgment and taste. In the process, we risk losing ourselves permanently.

You Grant Others Permission to Be Loyal to Themselves

The authentic self we present to the world resonates with the authentic selves of those around us. Real connections with people who embrace their true selves bring depth and meaning to our lives.

The way we treat ourselves teaches others how to treat us. When we demonstrate self-loyalty by knowing, liking, and honoring who we are – and by showing up authentically – we become better at loving others.

In the words of one of my favorite authors, Brené Brown, “True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are. It requires you to be who you are.”

So, always ask yourself: Is this truly what I desire? How do I genuinely feel in this situation?

There may still be occasions when you choose to focus on the needs of a loved one. But it will be a conscious, loving decision, not an obligatory, mindless routine or a manipulative tactic.

Grounded in your true self, you will make better decisions guided by your authentic nature, bringing you greater happiness and inner peace.

This will have a positive ripple effect on everyone around you. And in my opinion, that’s the opposite of being selfish.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you ever felt selfish for wanting something more for yourself? Have your ideas about that changed now that you’re older? Have you allowed selflessness to curtail your self-knowledge and personal growth, or has your experience been different? What advice would you give to younger women about self-loyalty?

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Judith Drennan

Giving has always been what was expected of me. Myself didn’t exist until recently. Not there yet

Linda Wattier

Thanks for reading, Judith. I hope you’re taking some time to get to know your own sweet self as you are today. That, in itself, is an act of self-loyalty that should lead to more balance.

Woman in Harmony 2023.jpg

Oh yeah, I am right there. I am just truly focusing on this process and wrestling with how to do it without feeling selfish. I am worried about how long it may take and if I’ll get ‘there’ in time to feel whole in my marriage. I’m still not clear on how to achieve this.

Linda Wattier

Thanks for reading, Ava. You’ll get there by compassionately focusing on your self-discovery. Identifying what you want (and don’t want) in your next chapter will make everything easier. Earlier this year, I wrote an article on defining and aligning with your core values. You might find it helpful.


It’s important to rethink these false narratives most of us have accepted. We’re taught to distract ourselves by focusing on other people or world problems that we usually have little or no control over. We are not responsible for other people’s choices. It’s a lot like an addiction to be distracted from yourself. To have to run, run, run to the next thing. Buddha said most people only know external pleasure to feel better which is fleeting& never fulfills us, and that true happiness is found only within oneself, not dependent on the world. The world only offers this delusion. Surprise meditation helps; why b surprised anymore by all the horrors none of it is new, its been going on since humans existed. We have a choice what we focus on.

Linda Wattier

To this I say, “Amen, sister!” Thanks for reading, Sue.


No, I never had *the need to please*. I always put myself first (but realistically as a wife and mother). If my vessel wasn’t filled with life, happiness, fun, how could I pour out to my husband and children? It’s not selfish putting yourself first, it’s vital.

Linda Wattier

I love that, Joyce. So good to witness your self-worth.

Karen Jennings

Oh yes! And particularly as an only child, oh my! “You’re spoiled rotten”, “selfish”, “you have to learn to share”. My question “WHY? I was the one who was called” to be the contact person, to be with family members, write the obits, planning, hold on to photos and memorabilia . Not that there wasn’t anything wrong. By the time my last family member died, there was nothing left of me. Add full time teaching and all the stresses that come with that.I finally retired from teaching full time this past June. When I made an appointment with a chiropractor,that extra weight, Oh My!. SO Now! My saying “no” or I don’t want to now,, is so very freeing! I apologize for the length.


I also just retired as a teacher. I feel I am extra impatient now in part because of all the patience that’s required to be a teacher.

Linda Wattier

I stand with you, Karen. Let’s keep growing brave, strong, and free. Thanks for reading.


My journey has been very similar to yours- only child, family caretaker, full time teacher, mother, always taking care of everyone except me. I’ve been retired for 4 years, moved away from my kids, and am slowly learning to put myself first. The sad part is that my adult children are NOT responding well to the changes in me. At this time, they are hostile and angry because I am no longer interested in fixing their issues (they are 40 & 38- married, grow up already!!). Their rejection has hit hard but I am determined to continue to do what’s best for me. I like to call it “MY TURN”.

Linda Wattier

I’m sorry for your adult children’s rejection, Lyn. I understand how much that hurts. And yet, I hope you will continue to stand strong in your self-loyalty. It really is YOUR TURN and you deserve it. Many blessings to you.

The Author

Linda Wattier helps women over 40 embrace wholehearted living for a more authentic, fulfilling experience of midlife and beyond. She’s a women’s bold wellbeing coach and founder of How She Thrives, a free weekly newsletter on how to keep growing brave, strong, and free in the second half of life.

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