Creativity for the Rest of Us

Me first. You second. With love.


In a talk I heard recently, the speaker referenced the often-used biblical quote: Love your neighbor as yourself. It struck me in a way it hadn’t before that this principle starts with the fundamental assumption that you love yourself.

From my observation, we have work to do. Many of us are quick to rush in to advise, fix, and rescue our neighbors (partners, friends, children) all in the name of loving them. We feel worthwhile when we are “helping” someone else. We do this on a personal level and, as a culture, globally in the world.

Oh, that we paid that much attention to our own inner work.

Prior to embarking on the horrors of cancer treatment, this practice was suggested to me as a way to focus on my own healing work: Me first. You second. With love. This was a radical notion to me. It could also be the single greatest piece of advice I have ever been given.

For most of my life I took great pleasure and derived much of my self-esteem from putting others first. I had great ideas for your life, lots of advice and suggestions on what would fix you, and alleviate your pain. Instead of staying in my own lane, I was careening all over the freeway.

This did a few things. It kept the focus off of what was going on with me – my feelings, inner stirrings, and the guidance that was attempting in vain to get my attention. It gave me a false sense of self-importance. In focusing on you, I neglected to pay any attention to what was true for me. What I was missing was attending to my own needs and development with the same level of care and feeding I gave to yours. I was also missing the ability to be real with you.

The outcome was unhealthy dynamics in relationships, anger and resentment, feeling that I wasn’t truly being seen – all of which I had carefully orchestrated to avoid my own vulnerability.

By focusing on me first, you second, with love I learned to listen to myself, to know what I needed to best serve my healing process. I developed the ability to set limits and honor them without feeling guilty. By learning to have compassion for myself, I could extend deeper compassion for other people in my life. In being kind to myself, I am now kinder to my neighbor. In being gentle with myself and respecting my own pacing, I dropped the harsh self-criticism, desire for perfection, and judgment that would often bleed out onto others.

Consequently, I am more content with who I am and who I am becoming than I have ever been. I enjoy deeper and genuine relationships. My generosity comes from my true nature rather than a lack of self-worth.

When we know and truly love, truly appreciate who we are at our essence, respecting our own limits and boundaries, then we are able to love and be of service to others in a healthy way.

When we love ourselves first, everyone benefits.

I wonder about the impact on the disturbing state of affairs in the world if we practiced me first, you second, with love. Or as Mahatma Gandhi so elegantly challenged us – be the change you wish to see.


If you see yourself in this dynamic, consider joining me for further exploration into pattern breaking at the next Women at the Well.  March 27-29, in Pescadero, CA.

Early Bird discount until Feb. 15th



2 Responses to “Me first. You second. With love.”

  1. lisa says:

    This is so great. Putting yourself first sometimes also involves us being able to tell someone when we fell less than. Sometimes our loved ones make us feel insignificant in insidious, small ways. Re-decorating the Christmas tree instead of asking our partner, “do you mind if I move some of these around?” is one of those things that on its own is a small thing, but when added to other similar incidents can make us feel disregarded, not good enough. By putting ourselves first, we need to assert that we are worthy of consideration in our partnerships. By doing this, we are making known our value proposition, instead of allowing our own worth to be made less than. So putting ourselves first is indeed a two way street. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

    • Yes, Lisa, thanks for this. This is all part of speaking our truth (no matter how small it seems – they do add up), setting and respecting limits and boundaries for ourselves and respecting those of others.

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