Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


You Matter, Too

Don’t routinely put yourself last.

Key points

  • Routinely putting yourself last can take a toll on your self-esteem.
  • Feelings of heroism, guilt, and shame may result in you continuing to put yourself last.
  • You deserve time to rest and recharge. 
Source: Matthew Henry / Unsplash
Source: Matthew Henry / Unsplash

In coaching and therapy sessions, I routinely hear clients talk about the importance of taking care of others and how this often comes at the expense of taking care of themselves.

You may have a role in your life in which you have routinely needed to or been reinforced when you put yourself last, like being a parent, a caregiver, or working in the medical, service, or educational professions.

Caring for others can be noble and fulfilling. It can also be detrimental to your self-esteem and self-care.


Have you ever heard moms or medical clinicians being called heroes?

These are often roles where you are expected to sacrifice your energy, time, and health for the benefit of others.

Being seen as a "hero" or even a "superhero" can bring a great sense of pride and joy. However, it also creates norms in which one is not supposed to need support or rest.

It’s important to remember that what you do is important, but you are also human. And to be human means that it’s imperative that you engage in routine self-care. Even superheroes need to spend time recharging themselves in the sunlight.


You may have feelings of guilt when you set boundaries around your time to focus on self-care. You may also perceive resistance from those around you at home and work.

Others may have come to depend on you because you have been consistently reliable. They may not try to do things for themselves because they know that they can count on you.

In this way, you can create learned helplessness, entitlement, and sometimes laziness in the people around you. This does not always mean the people who need your time are villains, but the ways in which they are trying to get their needs met may reinforce your feeling that you have to come last.

Setting healthy boundaries is still possible and important. You may just need to be mindful that others may find your self-advocacy uncomfortable and may try to resist it.

Therefore, it is critically important to move through the discomfort and coach yourself with statements such as:

  • “I matter, too.”
  • “Self-care helps me take better care of those around me.”
  • “I can’t take care of anyone else if I’m running on empty.”
  • “I am worthy of self-care.”

You are a human, not a superhero. And even if you were a superhero, you’d still need to recharge.


Notice if you had a negative emotional reaction to being told that you were not a superhero. If you feel like you are not perfect or don’t live up to high standards, you can experience feelings of shame. You might feel like you are bad or weak. You may label yourself as a “bad mom” or a “terrible professional.” (If you want to learn more, Brené Brown has helpful writings and videos on the topic.)

Labeling yourself in this way is unhelpful. It’s normal to be imperfect, to need help, and to need a break. If you reach out to those in your support network or a health professional, you will quickly learn that you are not alone.

Find someone with whom you can speak openly about your self-doubts and worries and with whom you can problem-solve to identify ways to engage in self-care and advocate for yourself.

  • What’s one thing you can do in the next 24 hours to put yourself first and engage in some self-care?
More from Julie Radico Psy.D. ABPP
More from Psychology Today