Grace loves to write commentaries on psycho-cultural and sociocultural dynamics in their myriad forms.
The Premise of Putting OTHERS Before ONESELF
We have been taught that it is always more blessed to give than receive from our parents and other adult authoritative figures. We were further indoctrinated in the premise that to share and be altruistic towards others is quite a noble virtue. We were taught that being altruistic and unselfish are some of the higher values and virtues that one can possess. We were also inculcated ethically, morally and/or religiously that one always should consider the needs of others over that of ourselves. In our culture and society, charity towards others is considered to be one of the higher, if not the highest, of human virtues.
In fact, we are regularly relegated with stories and examples of people who routinely put others before themselves. We hear, even see how such people are viewed as heroes and/or saints to be emulated, if not gloried or deified. Such people are considered to be sterling, even stellar examples of what we should be. Some go further to remark that if the world need more selfless and altruistic people who put others before, even above themselves. They even maintain that the world would be much better place if people put others' needs and concerns before their own. They contend that it is such selfless and altruistic people which make the world a more beautiful place to live in.
Not only adults but even children are routinely told that it is always good to put others first. They are instructed that to consider others' needs and wants first makes them better individuals. They are told by parents, teachers, religious figures, and/or other authoritative adults that the world is not about them but about others. They are vastly rewarded, even being positively reinforced when they put other children's needs and concerns in precedence to theirs. Such children are deemed as popular, even leaders by their peers and teachers because they are seen as relatable, even likeable by others. The message conveyed to children and adults alike that people who put others' needs first are nice, likeable, and relatable. People are comfortable and at ease with those who are considered selfless and altruistic. They are also seen as approachable, reachable, and good all around people.
We're Taught to ALWAYS Put Others.......FIRST
To Put Oneself First......Is SELFISH
While people have been inculcated with the premise that putting others first is the height of selflessness and is noble, they have been conversely indoctrinated that to put themselves first is the height of selfishness. To be selfish is viewed as the ultimate wrong. Being selfish is even equated to evil. The self is to be downplayed, even subverted to others. To many people, the worst and/or most abhorrent thing is to be called selfish. In addition to selfishness being downplayed, it is to be avoided, even suppressed.
As a result of such negative inculcation regarding the premise of self versus other, people feel guilty if they dare to think about themselves instead of others. The word self has a less than positive connotation. As children, we are told not to be selfish but to think of others. We are even told that it is the ultimate good to subvert, even sacrifice our wants and desires for others. People who exhibit a healthy sense of self are often denigrated as selfish, self-centered, or worse. The ideal person is the one whose feelings for others take precedence over his/her feelings.
There is the religious mandate that one is to be doing, acting, and even living for others. Religions further assert that others should always be more important than the self. They emphasize the importance of self-sacrifice for the sake of others. They convey that it is morally superior for one to sacrifice himself or herself for the sake of humanity. In many religions, the altruistic or selfless person is the superior one. They maintain that there is no benefit in putting oneself first. They contend that being and living for oneself is a wasted life. They further assert that to be selfish and putting one's needs first can only lead to misery and ruin.
It's SELFISH To Put YOURSELF First
There are people who actually exhilarated by putting others first. They feel important in the eyes of others. They even feel needed. They contend that by doing and acting for others, they have a validation to their lives. They somehow feel worthwhile, even significant in the eyes of others. They assert that by placing others before them, they have a reason to be alive. They may feel that they are contributing to society and making the world a much better place.
Some were strongly inculcated by their families that they should always think solely of others, never themselves. They were taught that their needs, uniqueness, and individuality do not count for much, if anything. They were probably denigrated, even dismissed if they voiced their own wishes and needs. They were told to subjugate their individual needs for the good of the family, others, and/or community. They were led to believe that one should always be self-abnegating, always placing others before them and to deny their own needs.
Then there are those who put others first, hoping that others would appreciate them, reciprocating in kind. They are of the belief that if they do and act for others, others will do and act for them. They contend that people are just as selfless and altruistic as they are. They really do not see putting others first as a one-way affair. They maintain that every act is a two-way street. To them, it is quite reasonable, even expected that one good turns always and should deserve another. After all, they surmise that this is a civilized and cultivated world where people ought to do for each other, not for themselves.
However, there are other people who put others first, acting and doing for them for less than altruistic reasons. They do and act for others because by doing so, they have power over others and others are beholden to them. They believe that when they put others' needs first, others must play by their rules. After all, it is they who make sacrifices for others and the latter had better take notice and be grateful for them. They are not above telling others what they have done for them. They are well aware that by putting others' needs and wishes over their own, they have influence, power, and might over the latter. They are not above manipulating, even blackmailing others, stating what they have done for the latter. They oftentimes feel superior to the others they do things for.
People who oftentimes place others' needs, desires, & concerns over their own are taken advantage of. They are perceived to have a low sense of self, even low self-esteem. It is reasoned that if they possess an iota of self-esteem, they would respect themselves to place themselves first, if not all the time but at least half of the time. People do not respect them because they do not have a healthy dose of self-love.
People see them as easy marks, because they cannot, do not, and will not establish boundaries regarding how much to do for others and when is enough, enough. They can easily be taken advantage of because of their inability to establish boundaries. They are even seen and treated as doormats. People figure that since they will not assert themselves whatever they are asked to do, they will gladly do it without question or complaint. People simply love those who are not assertive regarding establishing boundaries and would tolerate anything as far as others are concerned.
Besides the negative external ramifications of placing others' needs and wants first, there are internal ramifications. People who tend to place others' needs before their own can adopt passive-aggressive characteristics. They may be uncomfortable that others always come before them. They even feel emotionally, psychologically, and even psychically drained because they overextend themselves to others. However, instead of being assertive, stating that their needs as far as others go, they subvert their true feelings and oftentimes use guilt and other forms of manipulation on others they help. They may not use guilt on others but take out their frustrations on their immediate family.
There are those who feel unappreciated and used. They feel that they are only valued for what they can give to others. They know that they are needed for others' expediency, no more no less. They are the ones whose mantra that they treat others far better than others treat them. They can adopt the martyr, lamenting why them. They even complain to those who will listen. Mostly likely, they will internalize their feelings creating psychological and subsequently physical illness. There will be some who will continue the martyr route because it is easier for them to be in a psychological morass to assert and embrace their selfhood.
However, there are some who feel that they have overextended and stretched themselves thin for others enough. They will begin to feel that the nicer they are, the more others will exploit them and being nice to others really does not pay. So they begin to do the opposite turn and become exceedingly selfish. It is their assertion that it is far better to be selfish and only think of themselves than to waste their time and energy thinking of and doing for others which is not only thankless but foolish to say the least.
What OCCURS When Others Are Placed First?
Our society oftentimes glorifies, even deifies people who always put others first. Such actions are considered marks of a virtuous and noble person. People who put others first are even viewed as saints and heroes, being held as exemplary examples as to what others should aspire to. Religions and other moral teachings regularly expounds on the benefits of putting others' needs before our own.
Conversely, there are negative connotations for considering and placing oneself first. Such acts are viewed as selfish, immoral, and even evil. People have been inculcated in the premise that to think of and act upon self is self-indulgent, if not self-centered. One of the worst things that to be called is selfish which result in many people subverting and making their own needs subordinate to that of others.
However, there are negative external and internal ramifications to putting others' needs before one's own. Such people are considered to be doormats or easy marks who can be easily taken advantage of because of their inability to set and establish boundaries as to how far to go as far as others are concerned. They can also be psychologically burned out because they have overextended themselves regarding others, totally forgetting about or even neglecting themselves. There are some who even become extremely selfish because they see the futility of always putting others first.
It is really unhealthy to put others first and oneself last. People are the most effective when they possess healthy self-images. People must learn that there is nothing wrong in putting themselves first. While it is good to think of, do, and act for others, it is more important to take care, do, and act for self. If people do not put themselves first, no one else will.
© 2016 Grace Marguerite Williams
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on January 21, 2018:
Exactly, people who are pleasers have little to no self-esteem.
H C Palting from East Coast on January 21, 2018:
You raise many good points here. Some people pleasers have a change of their mindset at some point in their lives, sooner being better than later, while others may lose a lot of things important to them because they did not change their mindset of putting others before themselves. Recognizing one's own value does not equal being a bad person. Putting oneself first does not equal being a bad person. But, the exact opposite of these things are often taught from early ages whether verbally or otherwise.
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on December 23, 2017:
Thank you for stopping by & responding.
Kathryn L Hill from LA on December 23, 2017:
I concur with your viewpoint, Grace. True Altruism occurs when the giver gives because it makes her or him SELF feel good!
Nudely on August 27, 2016:
What was the point of life if you didn't live? if you didn't have fun? if you didn't accomplish the things you wanted to do? Then again, what good were you to the world if, like our two principal Presidential candidates, you lied, cheated, stole, killed, and hoodwinked your way to success? Somewhere in there there's a happy medium.
Lisa on June 27, 2016:
Society, including men, prefer nice, good girls over mean, bad girls as to what my dad taught me. I come from a family where I have to put others needs and wants before my own and if I take care of my self and put my needs and wants first, I'm seen as rude, selfish, narcissistic, and slutty, especially when it comes to taking care of my appearance, even by my own close cousin who just got married a year ago. Yet she doesn't even take care of her appearance. She is considered unattractive and awkward and isn't very fashionable but she always puts others first before herself which my dad considers kind. It's no wonder she's never been asked to model, doesn't have many male friends, admirers, and hasn't dated much people like her awkward husband. Anyway, my dad prefers that I be like her rather than be myself because he sees me as bad while she is good. He also doesn't approve of anyone like me, either. He wants people according to his standards only.
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on May 19, 2016:
Yes, most women are raised that way. It is the nice girl syndrome, always putting others first & themselves last. Well, this behavior results in being disrespected, even taken gross advantage of. It also causes passive-aggressive behavior because those women aren't overt in expressing their needs so they covertly express their needs in other, more destructive ways.
kjforce from Florida on May 19, 2016:
Most Women have this trait towards their husbands and children....we have been taugh...however today's generation appears to be breaking away from this tradition..which actually is healthier, due to better care of themselves both physically and mentally, which will result in a less stressful life for both..