If you aren’t aware, number one is you.  Always you.

How many times have you put someone else’s needs before your own? Where has it left you? Sure, he or she might be your best friend or your partner or a member of your family, but you aren’t of much use to this person if you don’t take care of yourself.

Everything begins and ends with you and no one spends as much time with you as you do. When was the last time you treated or pampered yourself?

There is a difference between being centered on yourself, and being “selfish” in the traditional sense of the word. While many of us constantly ruminate about ourselves and our position in the world, we aren’t typically ruthlessly going around and taking things for ourselves so that others can’t enjoy them. The word “selfish” almost always has a negative connotation (like caring only about yourself while disregarding others), but it’s time to rebrand the word in order to highlight how healthy and productive selfishness can be.

The other side, the “good” side of selfishness, is that you take care of yourself enough to be in top form for doing whatever you want to spend energy on — taking care of your kids, excelling at your job, and maintaining great relationships. In fact, even staying alive requires a certain amount of “selfishness.” You have to eat. You have to sleep. You have to get yourself some kind of shelter. These are examples of a necessary and healthy selfishness.

So why should you ditch the guilt and feel good about putting yourself first?

Being selfish in some areas can allow you to be more generous in others

Michelle Obama once said: “One of the things that I want to model for my girls is investing in themselves as much as they invest in others.” She explained this concept in the now common, though incredibly apt metaphor of putting on your own oxygen mask on the plane before assisting others. How will you aid and improve the lives of those around you, if you don’t make sure you have enough of what you need to operate at your best?

This concept can also be easily compared to giving your car fuel and oil so that you don’t break down from attempting to run on empty, and it’s called self-care.  Make sure to give yourself more of the things you need to be happy and cutting down on those self-sacrificing outlays of your valuable energy. The idea is that the happier, healthier, and more self-fulfilled you are, the more you’ll have to give to the causes and people who matter most to you.

You’ll have more time for the things you love

Women  are constant caretakers, doers, and helpers—sometimes at the expense of their own health and happiness. They are known for their inability to say no — to doing a favor, to staying late at work, to picking up the slack on someone else’s project — the list goes on. We need to learn to guarding our time, talent, and treasure so that we can give out our time, talent, and treasure elsewhere.”

The idea is that when you protect your time by saying no to things that aren’t enriching or interesting to you, you can learn to identify and develop your real areas of unique talent. And those areas are where you have the most to contribute to others and the world around you anyway. The more you embrace your worth and identity through self-discovery, the easier it will be to say ‘no’ when needed and ‘yes’ when prompted.

As you invest in yourself, you’ll have more to offer the world around you. The time you spend learning about yourself, developing your talents, and sharing your treasure will be used to love others in greater ways. You’ll offer more insight and wisdom on a topic. You’ll help a friend that will benefit from your skill sets.

You can stop blaming others for your problems

When you are constantly over-giving of yourself, your time, and your energy to others there is no way around it — at some point you will start to feel some resentment.  Sacrificing for others can build trust and a realization of the joy in seeing others’ needs or wants met, but carried too far, self-sacrifice can morph into martyrdom — a sense of constantly doing for others at a huge expense to self. For true success, you need self-awareness.

This means that you’re aware of your own needs or what’s important for you to succeed. You don’t believe or live as if working on your own goals is selfish. However, you’re also aware of those around you, and will feel more fulfilled as a person if you’re not always focusing on self. You also give, but without resentment or overkill.

You will be physically and emotionally healthier

Imagine you have a ton of work to do (probably not much of a stretch to visualize), but you decide to take the time out to go to Pilates class anyway. Result: you will finish your work a bit later than you would have, and your family will have to hold dinner for you, but you feel refreshed and invigorated from exercising and clearing your head with meditation.

This concept is called healthy selfishness.  If you think about everything we do for survival, such as sleeping and eating, those are examples of behaviors associated with a ‘healthy selfishness.  We need to participate in these behaviors in order to survive. We also need to participate in other behaviors to be healthy, such as taking time out of our day for us, for ‘me time,’ and to relax or destress. For some that may be going on a run or going to the gym, for others that may mean a quiet and relaxing bath. Whatever it is, it is needed to allow you to destress, refocus and be able to be productive and accomplish what you need to accomplish. Without some of these behaviors and acts of ‘healthy selfishness’ we will eventually burn out and not be productive, in any aspect of our life, if that be personal or professional.

You will feel more balanced

How do you live a balanced life? For some, it’s all about planning out your time and energy with intention.  Others just take it a day at a time.  Do whatever works for you, but make sure to add some “me-time”  to your daily schedule.

You will inspire others

Being selfish, is about being grounded enough to understand your needs, and confident enough to make sure you work toward meeting them so that you can reach your full potential.

This is a recipe for success for you and for those around you. Your example will inspire your partner, children, co-workers to tune into their own needs establish their own boundaries to make sure they are able to take good care of themselves, and reach their potential as well.

Selfishness, it seems, may have gotten an unfairly negative reputation in the past, and I think it’s time we re-examine our understanding of what it means to put oneself first. It takes a lot of bravery and self-possession to stand up and say “I’m worth it!” to others, and even just to yourself.

Remember that caring for yourself is all about committing to taking care of your own needs the way you would for your very best friend. It’s about setting yourself up for balance and success, and it’s about valuing your health, opinions, and time. You deserve it! And when you are “selfish” enough to set yourself up to feel your best, you will be able to give your best to the world around you.