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Prioritize you! Here’s how to focus on yourself

September 22, 2022 - 16 min read


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What does it mean to focus on yourself?

Why is it important to focus on yourself?

How to focus on yourself and not others

8 tips for prioritizing yourself

Questions to ask yourself to maintain self-focus

Turn your focus to these 4 areas

Remember: you’re not alone

When did you last take some “me” time to focus on yourself? 

Maybe you got a massage, took a half-day to go thrift shopping, or went to the movies. Whatever the activity, you turned off your phone and stepped away from daily life while you were engaged.

Has it been a while?

That’s understandable. Most likely, you have a lot going on. Plus, you want to be there for your friends, family, partner, and colleagues. That can lead to never turning down any of their requests. 

Your loved ones are an important part of your life, bringing you much joy. But if you neglect other aspects of your life, things might start to feel out of balance. You might feel tired, irritable, and can even grow to resent the people you care about.

It’s normal to need some time away from it all. In fact, it’s essential for your well-being. Healthy boundaries will help you care for your needs while making sure others treat you with kindness and respect.

And, like most things in life, this kind of self-care is about balance. You might not think you have enough time, but you can do it. It just takes a bit of work and clear communication.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to focus on yourself without being selfish.


What does it mean to focus on yourself? 

Focusing on yourself means prioritizing your own needs and desires rather than those of other people. That doesn’t mean you’re actively working against others. It simply means you aren’t depleting yourself to make them happy.

It’s helpful to think of your life as a garden, with each flower representing a component of your well-being. Think of the daffodils as representing work demands, roses as your romantic relationship, daisies as friendships, and so on. The watering can then represents your time and energy.

As you water each patch of flowers, eventually your can will run dry. You need to know which flowers are worthy of your attention so you don’t run on empty.

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Why is it important to focus on yourself?

If your life is a garden, focusing on yourself is about refilling your watering can, so you can continue to care for each aspect of your life. 

Making time for your hobbies and big goals can help boost your self-esteem. This improved self-worth will overflow into your work and relationships. The end result: you’ll have positive energy when you’re around others.

Taking time for yourself can also help you identify the flowers that demand too much water. For example, you might end a toxic relationship to better focus on your career. Or you might change jobs to have more time with your family. 

This may feel selfish at first. But actually, stepping back is an opportunity to improve yourself and refocus on what you want in your own life.

Finding the right balance can be difficult. With so many competing priorities, trying to do everything can be draining. Let BetterUp be part of the solution. Our coaches can offer you tips on how to set boundaries and make moves toward your ideal life.


How to focus on yourself and not others

Setting healthy boundaries is difficult, especially if you don’t do it often. You might feel selfish or worried about how others will respond. Here are some tips to get you through it.

1. Recognize that ‘no’ is a complete sentence

In some cases, it may be helpful to provide a reason for setting a boundary. For instance, if you need space from your best friend or significant other, a conversation may help protect the relationship.

But in most instances, you don’t have to justify yourself. If you don’t want to attend a party, a simple “I can’t make it, but thanks for inviting me!” will suffice.

2. Let people feel how they will feel

If someone is hurt because you’re spending time on yourself, allow them to process their feelings. They have the right to their emotions, just as you have the right to your space. 

They’ll eventually get used to your new boundary. And if they don’t support you taking care of yourself, they might not be a great friend.

3. Be kind to yourself

Remember, you’re allowed to take time for yourself. Try to be mindful of negative thoughts and negative self-talk. Also, try not to worry about what others think. Instead, turn your attention to how you want to use your self-care time.


8 tips for prioritizing yourself

Now that you’ve carved some time for yourself, you might be wondering what to do with it. This is a great opportunity for some personal growth and self-discovery.

Here are some options to consider.

1. Revisit your old favorites

Is there a show you stopped watching because your ex didn’t like it? Or did you stop painting because your friends preferred playing sports?

Think about what you love to do when no one’s watching. This can rejuvenate your sense of self.

2. Learn something new

Making time is an important part of how to focus on your development. If you’re feeling up for it, try taking a class. Learn a new language or skill — something that’s all your own. 

Alternatively, you can find a new rabbit hole online. Countless community forums and podcasts can teach you a new hobby.

3. Confront your fears

Is there something you always wanted to try but were too afraid? Put in some effort to investigate why. Try journaling or talking to a therapist about what’s holding you back.

4. Enjoy the outdoors

Depending on your job and overall lifestyle, spending too much time indoors is easy. Going outside has many health benefits, including improved cognitive function and lower stress levels. 

Even if you’re not an outdoorsy person, a simple walk to the park could do you some good.

5. Write in your journal

Journaling is a powerful self-reflection tool that can improve your mental health. Putting pen to paper can help remove anxious thoughts, process your emotions, and give you perspective on your life. 

Bonus: Journaling is  a powerful way to ground yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed.


6. Learn to meditate

Mindful meditation is also a great way to practice self-compassion. Getting started can be difficult if you’re new to the practice. But once you do, you will:

7. Take care of your body

Hit the gym, go for a walk, or take an afternoon nap. Your physical health affects all aspects of your life, including your mental health and well-being. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week to care for your mind and body.

8. Evaluate or set goals

Now is an excellent time to track your own goals and see how you’re progressing. If you don’t have clear goals for yourself, you can use this time to create some. 

One simple tactic is to use the SMART method. This will help you progress on the things you want, rather than bending to the whims of others.

Questions to ask yourself to maintain self-focus

Too often, people let others dictate their happiness. You can start to think that if you say “yes” one more time, the validation will bring you joy. Or, you might also think that the pain of saying “no” isn’t worth it.

It’s possible to find joy in others. Volunteering can help you feel useful, improving your well-being.

But you can’t hinge your mental health on external validation. Only you have the power to define your happiness, and you have to own that.


Here are some questions that can help keep you on track:

  • What do I enjoy doing when no one is watching?
  • What am I most curious about learning, and how can I do it?
  • When I write down my thoughts and desires, what patterns emerge?
  • Do I treat myself the same way I would treat a friend I care about?

These questions can point you to activities that bring you joy, independent of other people. 

Turn your focus to these 4 areas

As you practice your self-focus, it’s important to remember to treat your Whole Self. There are many aspects to your life, and they each have their own needs.

Try paying attention to these four areas:

  1. Physical. Make sure you’re exercising, sleeping well, and eating healthily.
  2. Emotional. Check in with yourself and practice your self-love. Spend less time on social media apps to avoid comparison and stay in the present moment. 
  3. Inspirational. Find time for meditation, practicing your faith, or volunteering.
  4. Personal. Make time to relax, indulge in pleasures, and maintain healthy relationships.

Remember: you’re not alone

It’s normal to lose yourself in other people. Humans are social creatures, after all. It’s in our blood to accommodate and cooperate. Discovering yourself is hard work, but you can learn how to be yourself and walk the path to self-improvement. 

But for all of the benefits of being part of a group or in a relationship, having your own identity is important. You’re a unique individual with your own skills, likes, and dislikes.  

Your independence isn’t a hindrance; it’s how you contribute to the world. Only you can offer what you have to have to offer, and that’s a special thing. Knowing how to focus on yourself is a way to protect that. 

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Published September 22, 2022

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

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