woman stepping first onto a bridgeIn this era of blatant narcissism, it may be a very outrageous thing to say. But when we recognize that growth, healing, love, and change start with us, we need to be “me-first”.

I was having a conversation with a friend yesterday, and she shared with me something that her healer and teacher said to her. She told her that your healing has to be “me-first.”  It shocked me, but then made so much sense, on many levels.

What Does “Me-First” Mean?

But what do I mean by me-first? We’re used to hearing this term in relation to self-centered people, who only care about getting what they want without regard to others. I couldn’t possibly consider such a selfish perspective.

On deeper reflection, there’s another way to understand the idea of me-first.

When it comes to well-being and self-healing, me-first is necessary. Not in the way of putting your needs ahead of everyone. But rather from the perspective that if I’m unwell, I’ll need to take care of myself first before I’ll be helpful to anyone else. After all, if you’re ill, you stay home from work whenever possible (now required in the pandemic!). You don’t want to spread the sickness to anyone else, and you can’t be of much help in the office or with a client if you’re coughing up a storm.

Me-First is Being the Example

From an even deeper level, we need to exemplify what we’re teaching and sharing with others. If we are assisting people in losing weight or eating healthier, we’d better be taking care of ourselves first. We need to live our principles in how we eat and care for our bodies. Not perfectly, but with integrity. 

That includes times when we blow it and overindulge; with me-first, we own up to when we’ve missed the mark and model how to get ourselves back on track without beating ourselves up about it. If we’re sharing how to recover from a breakup or make it through the grieving process, we should have walked in those shoes, at least to some degree, and know how to make it through to the other side. With me-first, we embody what we share with the world.

A Guide Through the Territory

I think of the role of a psychotherapist as akin to a nature guide. If we want someone to guide us through the wilderness, we’d better find someone who knows the territory, has dealt with the challenges that arise there, and has the skill to respond to almost any situation, even if they haven’t encountered that exact situation before. An adept trail guide knows how to manage a wide range of contingencies from their own training, skills, and experience.

Likewise, we as therapists, healers, and teachers don’t need to have journeyed through every single possible human situation, but to have dealt with enough of the complexities and difficulties that people go through, such as relationships, loss, sadness, stress, anger, worry, etc., and have learned how to respond in more healthy and healing ways.

For any kind of healer, it needs to be me-first; we must mindfully attend to our own internal experiences and life challenges in order to be able to assist others. It doesn’t mean that we never mess up: but that we are committed to our own mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual well-being as part of our own life, and know the territory.

Me-First Beyond Our Personal Self

Then, the broadest understanding of this me-first philosophy comes with creating change beyond our personal self. If we want to heal a relationship on the rocks, it starts inside of us. Most of us have learned that we can’t change someone else (ask anyone actively in Al-Anon); we can only change who we are in response to others. That means we look at our reactions, our thought processes, and behaviors to see how they contribute to the problem, and address our side of the street first.

If, after looking at ourselves and making appropriate changes still doesn’t shift unhealthy dynamics, then we ask for our partner or family members to participate in creating a healthier connection in some way. If they don’t, we know the way to the door.

On a societal scale, if we want to see change in the world – whether in creating more community and connection, reducing plastic waste, healing racial divides, or cultivating more peace between political parties or nations – it starts right here, where we are. There’s no possibility of making great changes happen “out there” if we aren’t willing to be me-first and change them right in our home, neighborhood, and self.

Desire more connection in the community? Be willing to talk with strangers or help out a neighbor. If I want less plastic in the oceans, then I’ve got to look at what I buy, use, and throw away and cut down on single-use plastics for starters. If I’d like to see more racial equity, then it’s time I look in the mirror and consider my prejudices, and be willing to get to know people outside of my own race, religion, socio-economic status, and cultural background.

And my deepest longing – peace in the world. I know that I’m just one person, but so are you and everyone else. Where are the blocks to peace within me? What causes anger and judgment to arise within? How can I understand others that differ from me so that I can find common ground?

We need to be me-first – to address what needs to heal within us – before we can heal a nation and a planet. Me-first means it starts right here, where we are, within us. Then, we’ll really have something to share with others. They will be able to feel and see that we walk our talk, and that we emanate the love, kindness, wisdom, authenticity, and peace that we all long for.

Its a Journey, Not a Destination

I’m not saying it’s easy. In this age of fast, easy hacks, there’s not a shortcut for this. It’s a journey. We don’t reach a perfect destination. We walk, with caring, mindfulness, and love, endeavoring to “be the change we’re waiting for.” It’s a me-first commitment to the journey of healing and transformation. Each imperfect step along the way.

It starts with us. It’s not a new idea, but we need this reminder, all the time. What’s amazing is that if more of us were me-first in our commitment to heal, grow, and transform ourselves and our little part of the world, we’d see more happier, healthier, kind people and communities. We’d treat each other and our planet with the love and respect we’d like to see around us and in our leaders.

That’s “me-first” that I can stand behind. I’m doing my best, everyday, even though some days I fall far short of who I endeavor to be. But it’s a beautiful path to walk. Won’t you join me on the journey?


Want to be part of a community of spiritual women who love nature and are committed to their own transformation in order to help heal the planet, too? Check out Awakening Women of the Earth.


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