Women who ignore their personal needs and spend all their time doing things for other people will eventually have nothing within themselves to give, said writer Carol Lynn Pearson.

Pearson was the featured speaker at the Utah County Women's Forum at Utah Valley Community College during the weekend.The author and award-winning poet said life isn't only about serving others. Women should concentrate more on personal growth.

"I can only sometimes manage life when I remember that it is an assignment to grow," Pearson said. "Women seem to be so hungry for this commodity we call self-esteem. Sometimes we have to be given a reason to think of ourselves first."

For example, it seems alien to some women when airline flight attendants tell passengers that in an emergency it is best to take care of your own oxygen needs before assisting children. Pearson said the principle is one many women need to learn.

"If you pass out, who can you help? (This principle) can give us a reason, if we need one, for filling our own selves. If we are not full, who can we fill? If we don't attend to our own growth, life is going to attend to it for us," she said. "We are to grow where we are planted. The world is suffering because we have allowed femininity to be a walk-on too often in this drama of life."

Pearson said she has learned many lessons since the publication of her book about marriage to a gay man who eventually died of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Sharing personal tragedies prompts people to share their own with you.

"I have learned that just about everybody in this world has something they have to deal with that they never dreamed they were going to have to, and maybe that's the way it's supposed to be."

One common problem among women is they seem to make themselves responsible for other people in their lives, blaming themselves when their children fail, for instance, she said. Women should recognize that children have their own agendas, and acknowledge those "wonderful things we have done. Those areas where we are truly successful."

Teaching women to focus on their strengths was one of the goals of the annual women's forum, which featured workshops on self-esteem, health issues and eliminating depression.