How To Focus On Yourself Without Being Selfish: 6 Strategies For Leaders
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in your work, your goals and your obligations to other people that you neglect your own well-being. It can feel selfish or even self-indulgent to make time for yourself. You’re focused on achieving great things, so why waste time with yourself?
“Self-love” may sound like a sentimental concept that only long-haired hippies in tie-dyed shirts practice, but it’s actually something that can benefit everyone. Self-love means being kind to yourself, minimizing negative self-talk and making more room for positive self-evaluation.
As an entrepreneur, your ability to identify areas that need improvement is one of your most valuable skills. But while this can work well for business, the same attitude can be disastrous for your emotional well-being if you apply it too personally. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to become a better person, but you have to approach it from a place of growth and positivity, not self-loathing and dissatisfaction.
Try New Things
If you’re only working on your job, you risk getting stuck in a rut. Your job becomes your only identity, with nothing else existing outside of work. While we’re all for commitment to your job (especially if the work is meaningful and in line with your values), it’s important to continue to try new things beyond it. Doing so keeps you creative and energized, which not only helps you do good work in your job, but also live a richer life overall.
One of the best ways to try new things is to take up a new hobby. This could be something related to your job, but we encourage you to think beyond that. Maybe you want to learn a new language, try a new sport or build things with your hands. Go with whatever hobby you want — just be sure to focus on the learning and self-improvement that will come with it, not worrying about whether it will make money.
Getting to know you
Most people care about the opinions of their loved ones. Sure, you don’t automatically do everything your family or friends suggest, but you do carefully weigh their guidance when trying to make a decision.
It’s generally helpful to get insight from others, especially for big decisions. Still, it’s important to draw a distinction between finding value in this guidance and letting it sway you from your preferred course. The difference sometimes gets a little blurred, and you may not even realize at first that your dreams are actually someone else’s dreams.
Maybe you’ve had little luck with dating. Your loved ones reassure you that eventually you’ll find the right person and encourage you to keep trying, since getting married and having children are important parts of life, right?
Well, not if you don’t want them to be. Societal ideals around dating and relationships often suggest single people are lonely and incomplete. In reality, many people find permanent singlehood far more fulfilling than pursuing relationships they don’t actually want.
If you neglect these needs, you’re probably not getting enough time to recharge from life’s various sources of stress. You might not notice much of an impact at first, but eventually, you might see some unwanted changes in your physical and mental health.
You don’t have to do every single one of these. In fact, it’s probably wise to start small. Choose one thing to work on, and gradually work your way toward other practices that make you feel good.
Maybe you’re always ready when a friend needs kind words, a hug, or a distraction, but what about when you need those things? You might, like many others, hold yourself to stricter standards and fall into patterns of negative self-talk.
Show yourself some love
That last one is key to maintaining the right balance between focusing on yourself and focusing on others. Devoting all of your energy to other people leaves you with little for yourself. When you look within to fulfill your own needs first, you’ll be in a much better position to support the ones you love.
People in relationships tend to spend plenty of time with their partners. This might work perfectly well for a while, but lacking time for the things you enjoy can result in your losing touch with those interests over time. This can leave you feeling frustrated, discouraged, and resentful.
Everyone needs time to pursue their own hobbies, and it’s pretty rare two people will want to do exactly the same thing all the time. Even when you’re very close, spending some time on your own and with other loved ones can still improve the health of your relationship.
When life gets busy, hobbies might be the first things you drop from your routine as you navigate more immediate challenges. But this can backfire. It becomes harder to weather difficulties and bounce back from stress when you don’t have time to recharge.
After leaving a relationship, you might need to relearn how to exist in your own company. This may feel lonely and difficult at first, but try reframing this solitude as an opportunity to explore new hobbies or rediscover old ones, from stargazing to scrapbooking to tabletop gaming.
Most people compare themselves to others on occasion. Perhaps you feel a little envious of a particular friend who always seems happy. “If only I had their brains (or partner, or style, or wealth, or anything else), I’d be happy, too,” you think.
But you don’t actually know how they find fulfillment in life. Even if their happiness does stem from the things they have, people are different, and there’s still no guarantee those same possessions will bring you the same joy.
Comparing yourself to someone else can motivate you to aim for similar goals, like a nice house, your dream car, or a loving partner. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as these new ideals don’t overshadow your existing values.
Comparisons can become problematic when they distract you from what really matters to you. You might end up working toward something you don’t necessarily want, simply because you think might resolve your dissatisfaction.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, look at the things you already have. Who (or what) brings you joy? What do you feel grateful for? What would you like more of? Less of? Where do you want to be in 10 years’ time?
Taking some time to reconsider the specific qualities you value most can help you refocus your attention on who you are and who you want to become. If you value community, for example, you might look for ways to share time or resources with your community.
Once you identify your values, you can begin to explore ways to incorporate them into your life in meaningful ways. Some values, such as bravery, optimism, or adventurousness, might come naturally to you.
Others, including honesty, accountability, or leadership, may require a little more work. This work is worth it, though — research from 2017 suggests living according to your values could help improve satisfaction with life as well as mental health.
Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.
Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.
Tips to focus on your own life
How to decide what you want
To stop comparing and focus on your own life, you must decide what matters to you. Forget about all the distractions and consider what would make you the happiest and would benefit your family the most. Ask yourself these questions:
Tuning out what others think
To stop comparing and tune out what others think, you may need to make some changes. These could include staying away from social media when making decisions, pausing to ask yourself why you care about a particular product or item and reminding yourself of your own goals.
Making financial choices for yourself
Basing decisions on your vision for your life
Once you’ve decided about your life goals and financial choices, it’s time to follow through. This means that even if you see others being successful or feel left out, you stick to what you believe. Know that with time and hard work, you’ll get where you want to be in life. And it will have nothing to do with comparing yourself to other people.