Put Yourself First, Don’t Look For Society’s Validation.



I used to tell my two young daughters (who didn’t want to go to stay in the childcare room at the tiny Yoga studio I went to when they were little) that I was taking care of myself.

I explained that this would help me take better care of them. The few studios that did take kids, and the health club kids’ rooms, were not as great 35 years ago as they are today. But when I came back to pick them up, my kids were perfectly fine.

It was my challenge. My only obstacle to putting myself first was me who was racked with guilt and shame as to what I felt like were society’s rules about what it meant to be a good mother.

I love speaking with young women now who have a new understanding of how to build a healthy support team so that they can pursue their dreams, create and manifest a life that they thrive in, find a life partner (if that interests them) and have children (if that interests them).

I’ve always said: “You can have it all… it just won’t be all on the same day.”

I truly believe that. Now that I’m 54 years old, I’ve seen it repeatedly. I’ve lived large. I’ve met and been so inspired by some very amazing people. I just wasn’t around them when I was young. I’ve also seen mean people manifesting their own bad karma in this lifetime.

I’ve also seen simple, humble people do the most life-transforming, amazing things — and help others.

I was taught I was only valuable if I put everyone else first.

I was taught that it was selfish to put yourself first, but that’s incorrect. On the contrary, it’s healthy and critical that you do so.

Perhaps we need new language around this phrase that I’m thinking about — Put Yourself First. We can, once and for all, shift into a new way of thinking on the planet. Value the feminine. We are all divine, beautiful and valuable.

I loved a quote I just read from Madonna when she was asked if she is a feminist (a word I think that still scares people, who knew?): “I see myself as a humanist.”

Me too.

I hear young women speak very eloquently and passionately about moving the needle forward (getting back to being a proud feminist too), like Emma Watson’s recent, impactful UN speech. HeForShe is great… but… author and activist Gloria Steinem would be the first one to tell you that things haven’t changed that much.

What I admire about Gloria is her whole career of work. She taught me about Never say never, and that things do change and what you value changes all the time. Even Gloria got married.

One of my life goals is to not complain about aging. I don’t want to become a cynical old woman, but if you look at the statistics of women screenwriters and filmmakers working in Hollywood, it’s still disturbing. My hope is that I can find mentors who inspire me about getting older.

I’ve been reading Christiane Northrup‘s book, Goddesses Never Age. You must read it if you have not. What I have learned from her book is that I’ve just never been exposed to a ton of healthy women (emotionally, spiritually, financially, etc.).

My generation tried to do it all, be it all, have the perfect kids and husbands — and look perfect along the way. It was exhausting.

I’m over all of that. I’m loving being 50+. It’s amazing. It’s so freeing.

Instead of turning into one of those cranky old ladies… instead of just moaning and complaining… I know the key is to spring into action. My job is to share, in any way possible, the message to young women that it is healthy to put yourself first, to pursue all your dreams regardless of whether or not anyone else understands you.

When I speak in public, I’ve heard time and time again about the penalties for putting yourself first. I’ve had firsthand experience with that, so I’m sympathetic — but at the same time, it’s all of our jobs to change society’s perception of where women need to put themselves in the pecking order of life.

Women need to be strong enough and healthy enough to demand that, or… be courageous enough to not look to others for any form of validation.

So listen up, girls… this isn’t going be a one-time done deal. Right now I’m in the last stages of finishing a book, and it’s been very challenging putting myself first. I’ve had to let go of some values that I hold dear, like returning a call or an email in a timely fashion. So what? They can wait. I’m doing something for me. It’s healthy.



Stephanie Spence
Coronado, California-based screenwriter Stephanie Spence is the former publisher of the award-winning monthly wellness lifestyle magazine in Pennsylvania, Health & Fitness. Her publishing company, Spence Communications, Inc., has published numerous magazines and produced a short documentary film. Stephanie has worked in TV, films and radio and is currently in the Advanced UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting. This mother of two spends her time practicing Yoga, writing and traveling. You could contact her via her blog or via Twitter.
Stephanie Spence