Society puts unrealistic expectations on us to put everyone before ourselves. We see it everywhere... Donate money. Help a friend in need. The list goes on and on. I am not saying not to help other people - quite the opposite. I am saying that if you neglect to help yourself first, you are not any help to others. Let me explain...
There is a fun saying recited before a plane takes off. When demonstrating how to put on your air mask if something should happen to the plane, the flight attendant makes it clear that you have to put on your own mask first before helping others to put on their's. Otherwise you won't be able to breathe when you're trying to save everyone else, and consequently, won't be much help to those people.
Life is the same way. If you don't put your own happiness before trying to make everyone else happy, you will "run out of air" aka fail to make yourself happy. In a way, putting yourself first is much more altruistic because you are more suited to help others.
For most of my life, I was under the impression that I needed to put everyone before myself. This mentality turned me into a people-pleasing person who neglected my own happiness. I felt like I was a bad person if I wanted to do something for myself before helping someone else. After one too many times feeling resentful and taken advantage, I realized that many of my problems stemmed from not putting on my air mask first.
Your world changes when you put yourself first. I am happier, less resentful, and actually MORE giving. I am helping other people because I actually want to and not because I feel like it is what I am supposed to do. I have taken care of myself, and I am not giving more than I have to give. Further, I have already made myself happy, and I don't need to live vicariously through making others happy. I learned that if I didn't put myself first, no one else would.
This mentality taught me the key difference in being nice and being kind. I strive for being kind. Kindness is being a genuine, good person. Kindness is not just giving to others, it's giving to yourself as well. Niceness is kissing up to people and letting others walk all over you. It is caring about what others think about you. It is advertising your good deeds. It is doing things because you think others will think better of you. Being nice is not doing kind acts for the sake of being a good person. I was nice for most of my life. I now aim for kindness. I am focused on giving to others, but not at the expense of my own happiness. I am not focused on impressing everyone else.
Since I have changed my mentality, there have been times that I have felt guilty not being able to drop everything to help someone last minute. Maybe it would feel nice to completely change my day around every time someone suddenly needs me, but I need "me" too. There are still times that I change my day around to accommodate others (and gladly do it), but I have made it happen less often. I no longer feel like other people are taking advantage of me because I am only giving what I am actually capable of giving. What I am capable of giving to others is what I have left over after I have helped myself. Otherwise, who is there to help me?
I guess this mentality breeds not caring what others think as well. I learned that if I made myself happy, then I am excited to give back. I learned not to care if everything I do fails to please everyone. Focusing on pleasing everyone really does please anyone.
I am not saying to be a self-centered, horrible person, but if you are a little selfish, you will actually be much more altruistic and kind. You will be a better person.