Help Yourself Before You Help Others


Help Yourself Before You Help Others

If you’ve been on an airplane then you’ve heard the safety walkthrough that takes place on every flight.

They show you the exits, walk you through their emergency procedures, and tell you about the oxygen masks that will come down on their own if the plane loses cabin pressure.

This is the part you really need to listen to:

“Please put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.”

At first, this sounded weird to me. I thought that children were supposed to be helped first. Why would they make it a point to tell everyone to help themselves before aiding anyone else?

The idea is that if you’re trying to put on an oxygen mask for someone else, you may lose consciousness and you’ll be unable to assist others (or yourself) later. However, if you fit yourself with a mask first you’d be able to remain conscious and aid people as needed.

This got me thinking… Whenever I’m in a bad place, when I don’t have the oxygen mask on, the one thing I’m unable to do is help others.


When you’re in a negative mindset you’re unable to make a positive impact on others because you don’t see the point in it.

When you’re sad you don’t have the will to try to make someone else’s day because you’ve got your own problems to worry about.

When you’re angry the last thing you’d want to do is put on a smile for others because you don’t think it’s necessary.

It’s dangerous to be in a bad point in your life for long. You’ll get jaded and you’ll stop trying to do good.

Your positive impact on the world only comes when you’re happy. When you help yourself first.

No matter how hard it gets, you’ve got to keep trying to climb out of the hole.

You may not feel better today or tomorrow, but hang in there. You’ll wake up one day and feel something different. You’ll feel better.

Help yourself so you can help others.

Put the oxygen mask on.

Photo Credit: Leticia Bertin – Flickr

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Vincent Nguyen is the author of Self Stairway and founder of Growth Ninja, a digital marketing agency that specializes in Facebook Ads. Voted "Most Guapo" five years in a row (lost during 6th year to a hand model.)

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25 responses to Help Yourself Before You Help Others

  1. I absolutely agree. If I am at a shitty place in my life then it is impossible for me to help others. It is also difficult to maintain romantic relationships if you do not take care of yourself first. Thanks for the reminder to make sure to keep myself mentally healthy.

  2. I forged my motto, “Progress is my duty” exactly because of that. If I expand, my reach, influence and possibilities to help others will expand too.

    I spent too much of my life wishing I could help more. Now I work on helping myself, becoming stronger, so I could do more.

    • It’s an effect that’s difficult to produce because of the fear that others would judge you as selfish. But working on yourself is seeing the bigger picture and the potential upside you can provide for others.

  3. It was great to see this. For years I’ve used the oxygen mask on the plane analogy with my clients. I would reassure them that they were not being selfish by putting their mask on first, but without doing that they’d be useless to help others. On a more literal note, let’s hope we never need the mask.

    • It works really well when it finally hits as to why we should help ourselves first. To ignore our own wellbeing disables us from helping others in the long-run.

      I’m sure your clients appreciate the analogy. 🙂

  4. Love it! We must take care of ourselves in order to be fit for service to others. Timely message.

  5. Very good example to remind us that we help ourselves first to help others . Wear your own mask first . Generally we try to help others without caring our own needs specially in our homes then we complain .

  6. Thanks for this I have been on a black hole for most of this year and everytime I try to crawl out I end up back in, nobody knows because I don’t talk about it, yes I am seeing a therapist which I wonder is it doing any good. The therapist is trying to get me to communicate with people which I find challenging. To the outside world I am very encouraging and will lift you up if you are down.

  7. I agree with the airplane analogy, and it makes perfect sense. It does no good for two people to be panicked. I also think the same analogy applies to other facets of life. But, if you feel like you don’t have money to donate, then you can always donate time-and that’s free 🙂

    • It applies to a lot actually!

      For example:

      You can’t donate money if you don’t have enough saved up for yourself, otherwise you won’t be donating often enough or in amounts large enough to make an impact. So build up your own reservoir and financial safety net so you’re comfortable donating to others.

      You (often) can’t be optimistic and cheer someone else up if you yourself are depressed.

      You can’t be a good role model if you’re not happy with who you are.

      You can’t be in a healthy relationship if you can’t be happy alone too.

      Can we think of anything else? 🙂

  8. Well written.

  9. Thank you for the reminder. I have great difficulty helping myself. It seems much easier to help others, and much more noble to do so. I am struggling with three concepts: 1. You are always where you need to be. 2. In making others happy, you will make yourself happy. 3. You can not help others if you are not well yourself.
    I lost my home and my job, and I am living with family, but my family are not well, AND are very negative about everything. I came here with my son as a last resort, and rationalized it by thinking I am meant to be here and help fix this situation. In the short time I have been here, I have become more and more despondent. I have begun to feel trapped, and my child is again showing anger…directed at me. I truly do not know if I am to FIND a solution or CREATE it, and if I am to CREATE it, I am currently at a loss as to HOW. I am waking up with a headache every day, with the feeling I am walking on eggs, yet I do not know where to go. Lately I walk. To libraries, if they are open, to look for books that might help me. Sometimes I just walk, because I need to be out of the house. I love my child and feel great responsibility for him. This is not a good environment for him, but I have no other place to go. I do not want to leave him to my family’s “care.” I feel I am in a quandary. My head feels like it is in a vise grip, and my heart feels worse. This can not be “rock bottom” because I know my situation could be worse, but it feels quite awful. I am looking for words of wisdom anywhere and everywhere.

    • Jeanne, sometimes you won’t be able to find the solution in books or articles. The next best step, in my opinion, would be to consult a professional as they’d be able to help you a lot more effectively.

  10. So true! You should always make sure you’re good before shifting your focus to others. I think some people are apprehensive about this because they categorize it as being selfish, giving it a negative connotation. But really, it’s so necessary.


    • You’re right, people do think it’d be selfish but that’s an incorrect label. Selfishness is being inconsiderate of others. Caring for yourself first so you’re in the right state of mind to help others is the exact opposite of being selfish. 🙂

  11. Great post vincent,I love how you said, “you don’t see the point in it”. if you don’t see the value of being positive then you won’t look for it or bring it out in others. Thanks Vincent 🙂

  12. Thanks man, i was thinking of the very same thing when i found what you wrote. We are so trained to help others we fall into overdoing it. This somehow checks it. Very wise thoughts here.

  13. What if you force yourself to help others first and forget your own worries.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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    […] as the airline safety tip goes, put your own oxygen mask on first. Not your kid’s, not your grandfather’s. Yours. Because if you’ve passed out, who the hell is […]

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