It’s not selfish to Invest Yourself First

Alex Li
6 min readApr 26, 2021


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Photo by Jason Strull on Unsplash

Does selfishness really mean purified consideration of oneself? I recognized the answer when I had close conservation with Jack, one of my friends, who was puzzled about his sacrifice and unbalanced benefits from his work.

My friend, Jack, graduated and worked for nearly ten years as a senior engineer and then project manager in a big consulting company, affiliated with the government in China. Last year, the company let Jack lead a team, four younger engineers who worked hard and passionately. This month, all four members resigned. Jack said, “It was really a great blow to me, although I tried to persuade them to stay and, if possible, I can make some change”. Now his supervisor gave him great pressure. He was totally upset, confused, and puzzled about his ways of working and socializing, just as he said, “I never thought of this type of failure if I define their leaving as my failure. They were betraying me and the whole company! I paid so much attention to the team and strive for a spectacular performance, much more than to myself. I even have no time with my family and little kids. I am not selfish. But the return was too mean to me! AM I WRONG?”

Yes, he was wrong for his thinking of himself and his team. But he was right to have a great chance to make some change when he was in just his 30s.

Jack is not selfish, an excellent professional, and dedicated to his work and family. However, he was stingy with himself. He considered himself so little, allocated so insufficient resources to himself, and put himself always at the very back position. That was definitely no selfish, but rude, unfair, or even torturable for himself.

We need to be more alert to this phenomenon: too much attention for others but too little investment for ourselves. Life is like tough travel, hard work is the norm. But how to allocate our resources, and how to arrange our lives and work, determine how far we can go. Just like saving money, we must save a certain percentage first, which is for us and makes us rich. The better solution to beat the unbalanced relationship between ourselves and others is looking inside of yourself, which means how to think of your own position and invest yourself first!

1. Take care of yourself first

My friend Jack has two little daughters, 5 and 3, who are cared for and cling to Jack and his wife every day. Jack has no choice but only to drop off and pick up at private kindergarten in Beijing. He said most of his earnings were allocated to daily life, two little ones’ daycare and extra-curricular classes, and a huge amount of house loans. His self-improving requirement? At the very bottom of his list. Jack knew his daughters were his future, how about himself? Give up so easily?

This is very common for strivers in fast pace society. We often put others’ caring and needs in front of our own, and gain confidence and self-satisfaction from the love-giving process. This twisted relationship is not healthy and won’t last long, because of lacking energy and positive feedbacks which some lover-givers require for self-satisfaction and achievement. The unnotified leaving of Jack’s former team members made him struggling and worry about his ways of work.

Therefore, first things first. Put yourself on the top of your to-do list by different methods such as setting boundaries for work and life. That’s not selfish, but for long-lasting service, which can give our family, our kids better resources and environment. My mentor once told me: “If you don’t take good care of yourself if you are not going well, how good can you benefit your family?” Yes, that’s true. I was struggling for resettling in Australia and all my attention was occupied by making living in new surroundings. When I completely forgot about myself and was gaunt, I beat the sorrow to reschedule everything, prioritized recharging for myself other than continuous giving help to others with my empty battery, because I focused on long-time service, not only for the present issues.

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2. Invest in yourself

No matter how hard work and life is, focus on yourself and recharge. Any activities such as helping and guiding others require both time and energy from us who needs to be clear-targeted, organized, confident, and energetic for taking care of others, like a full-recharged battery.

However, even the most powerful battery does not have unlimited electric quantity for all people. Never to mention us, plain human beings. Sometimes we are running out of energy from work or life till midnight, left no electricity body for thinking of ourselves’ real needs. Especially some love-receivers might be growing more dependant on us and looking forward to more cares from us, making us more exhausted. So, we need to take the initiatives to invest and recharge ourselves, making some necessary change.

Photo by Deniz Altindas on Unsplash

First thing, your mindset. That’s the basic power and desire for anyone, anything. Learning to be a growth mindset holder, loving to embrace upgrading and improvement and transferring shortcomings to chances. Don’t be shy to make a change, because changing is the essential feature of our world that we can not get rid of. But we should also be alert to the fixed mindset, which often thinks of static characteristics, invariable capabilities and useless hard trying only showing inadequacy. They will drag us to stay normal other than excellent.

Second, your self target. Who are you going to be? What’re your talents? What’re your resources and steps to reach out for your goals? Your achievements and experiences make you wealthy in money and your minds. Then you really have the platform, resources and foundation for sufficient help for others.

Third, your influence. Many of us like to talk about the principles over and over again. However, it is more important for us to be a good example in many cases than to hope that others will change. Instead of wanting to change others, it is better to focus on changing yourself, guiding others to follow.

3. Set aside time for yourself

A fast-paced society needs our quick response to every mission, like the spinning top or marionette under bosses’ commands. Sounds familiar? Yeah, we are confronted with limited time, nearly the only way for investing us. Each of us seems to be busy, but how much work is really valuable and helpful to our future development, and how much time do we have to think about our future? Are we busy working hard in the right direction?

Try to set aside at least 2 hours, or half a day every week to get along with yourself, to deal with personal matters including personal improvement, growth, and life goals. Do not do any irrelevant housework chores, focus on yourself, stay in your flow state, summarize yourself this past week, then think about your near future and long-term planning.

Only by thinking about yourself first and constantly checking your goals can you have a better direction, at least no misleading direction.

It’s easier said than done. We all know our world exists because we exist, we feel and we love. We want to contribute to the world and provide value, we need others to recognize our value. But before all this, we must first pay ourselves to make ourselves more satisfied, stronger, and better, then we can better contribute to our value to this world.

I have been asking myself if there is anything that can limit our potential in life and work. I thought it may be the mind and spiritual level. I am about to share some of my thinking about self-management and mindset shortly, based on my consulting and managing experience.

Thanks for your valuable time to read this and all comments are warmly welcomed.



Alex Li

A senior policy consultant, GIS user, and land-water industry adviser. Love to investigate current policies and show better managing skills.