Through experience, I realized that the person who calls someone selfish for needing to take care of themselves first is actually speaking for themselves and out of a lack of understanding and compassion.
Of course there is a distinct difference with protecting one's own self respect and boundaries and being disrespectful and uncaring. Self respect and assertion comes from a conscious place of understanding and love, while rudeness comes from a place of frustration and lack of self confidence, respect and love. Usually the way we treat others is a reflection of the way we feel about ourselves.
Much of how we affect each other comes from the way in which we choose to communicate. If we assert our needs to others respectfully and they take it personally, then it is not our problem. These people are clearly not friends. True friends are understanding and understand that relationships are between two people who equally respect each others' needs.
One of the most important things I have learned about self respect is this:
The best thing we can do for others is to put ourselves first.
To become the strongest and most inspired versions of ourselves first, before we try to help others. Why? Because then we have far more strength, inspiration and groundedness to share.
We truly know how to give to others when we learn how to give to ourselves first.
Knowing when to say no out of self respect requires awareness. Life is all about balance- making time for others, but without sacrificing our own needs. With awareness, we know ourselves better and we better know when it is the right time to say what.
Setting a limit on what is not working or bringing us down can really mean yes.
Yes to what we do want and all the opportunities awaiting our decision to simply make the space and time for them.