Growing up I always remember hearing how people, women especially, should pride themselves on putting everyone and everything ahead of themselves. Women like my grandmother took these roles seriously. Her home was always immaculate - too much so, it often felt more like a museum than a home. She worked her entire life as a nurse and I remember her very fondly and admired her sense of duty and responsibility, how disciplined she always was. The other thing I remember is a woman who was very rigid and always on a schedule, who didn't really take time to have fun. She sincerely believed that "idle hands" were a sin and so she was always working, always doing and I don't remember much of anything she ever did for herself - except listen to baseball games and play solitaire. I don't remember fun outings to speak of, or any spontanaeity. I always felt if she had considered herself among her top priorities, that she would have been a true "superwoman". For her, it was always keeping up the image - and in the process I often felt she became a little lost.
I have seen this kind of social shaping a lot over the years. Women who put themselves under so much pressure to be perfect in their career, their home, with their kids, their appearance. At the end of the day what's left? Is there ever time for spontaneous joy? To pursue the meaning of life or look deeper for one's own passions?
Often we are taught that total self-sacrifice is what it means to be selfless - but I would argue that it should be the other way around. We cannot give to others what we don't have within ourselves to give. If we spend our days on empty because we've given all away and received nothing in return - how is that beneficial? On the other hand, when you take time for yourself and you feel fulfilled, it becomes second nature and much easier to give of yourself to others. When you allow your own light to shine and give yourself permission to live your truth, in that process itself you give others around you permission to do the same.
It is not selfish to make yourself a priority when you approach it from the right mindset. There is a difference between being self-focused and self-centered. Self-centered people are insecure people who want to be the center of everyone's attention at all costs. They often play the martyr to garner sympathy and other things of this nature. Self-focused people are those who work on empowering and strengthening themselves so that they might better inspire and serve those around them.
Take time to reflect on what is "selfish" and see if what you've been taught has robbed you of the joy of being self-focused. What we put forth we attract - if we constantly are at the end of our patience, feeling tired, drained, pressured, etc. - that is what we will draw more of. If, on the other hand, we take time each day to find our center, to give back to ourselves we feel more at peace, more secure in our own identity. The result is people and circumstances that come into our circle that mirror these qualities back to us. We begin to find more independent and like-minded people as well as circumstances that are more closely aligned to our true desires/needs.