It’s possible that what I am about to say contradicts what you were taught growing up, but I don’t care. I am not here to toe any party lines. Consider me nothing more than an independent whisper on the wind. Here goes:
Not only is there nothing wrong with putting yourself first, it is of vital importance that you do.
There is no honour in blind self-sacrifice. No dishonour in blind self-interest. There is nothing inherently good about acting selflessly. Nothing inherently bad about acting selfishly.
The thing about your life is that… it’s yours. Every step you take is a step on a path unique to you. Nobody but you can walk this path, and nothing but your own heart can tell you whether or not you are on it. It is yours and yours alone to discover and walk anew every day.
On your path, of course, you can certainly try to enrich the lives of others as they walk their own paths. You can become incredibly charitable and altruistic. The irony though is that unless you know yourself, listen to your own heart, and put yourself first, you will have very little to give anybody else.
The state does not care about your path with a heart. The masses do not care about your path with a heart. And sadly, there are probably plenty of people in your life who do not care about your path with a heart.
All the more reason for you to care about it.
Before you embark on any path ask the question: Does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it, and then you must choose another path. The trouble is nobody asks the question; and when a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him. At that point very few men can stop to deliberate, and leave the path. A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it.Carlos Castaneda – The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge