How do you pour from an empty cup?
Now we’ve all heard the saying, “It’s better to give than to receive.” And there is no doubt that spreading kindness and putting others before yourself is a beautiful thing. And there is a fine line between doing good and burnout. It’s easy to put pressure on yourself to make a deadline, to let the guilt of letting others down go before your own needs. But you can’t pour from an empty cup. We often associate the word ‘selfish,’ with negativity. Self-centredness, and maybe even greediness. We want to challenge that, and explore the art of self-indulgence and how it can actually be the secret to minimising your stress.
Finding the confidence to set your boundaries isn’t always easy. But it’s important to start small. It’s okay to leave the party early, if what you need is some rest or alone time. It’s okay to reply to that work email in the morning. Being intune and realistic with your needs is vital. We all have different social batteries, and in order to preserve that we need to learn how to say no.
There are different ways to do this when there’s too much on your plate. Learning to say no comes with understanding your work/life balance. You have to make sure work does not consume you, and at the same time, make sure your social battery isn’t depleted while you aren’t working. Here are some easy ways to say ‘no’ for the next time you need to take some time for yourself:
Use “I” Statements:
- “I’m sorry but I don’t have capacity for this at the moment”
- “I really appreciate you thinking of me for this, but unfortunately I can’t take this on right now”
- “I have lots on at the minute but would love to catch up some other time”
- “Let me check my schedule and get back to you”
- “I need some time to think about it”
- “Sorry, can I get back to you with an answer before (specific time/date)”
Offer an alternative:
- “I can’t do this week but can find some time for next month”
- “I’m not available for the full project but I’m happy to help where I can”
- “I wish I could but I have something on then already. I’ll let you know when I’m free.”
Setting boundaries is all about enforcing healthy routines, and self-care is a big part of this. Self-care means something different to everyone. We all have our own rituals that calm and still our minds. It can be anything from your morning skincare routine, to the comfort shows you watch before bed. But the most important thing is being consistent in these routines. Knowing that it’s “your time”, can be the motivation you need to get through the day. Whether it’s a full hour, or just 20 minutes, make time to focus on just you.
If you don’t have a self-care routine, start paying attention to the things (big or small) that fulfil you. Experiment, and try new things that bring your joy. Then find a way to work this into your every day!
A crucial aspect of understanding why being selfish can make you less stressed is being realistic with your time. While self-care and setting boundaries are essential for reducing stress, it’s equally important to be realistic about what you can achieve and commit to with what you already have on. Understanding your capacity allows you to make informed decisions about where you can invest your time and energy. Don’t fall into the trap of over promising and over committing. You’re only able to help others after you’ve helped yourself. And you’ll be at your best once you’re able to find that delicate balance between self-indulgent and existing responsibilities.
If you take anything away from this, it should be that selfishness (in moderation) isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s a powerful tool for managing stress, improving mental health, and nurturing your relationships. When you take care of yourself, you become a more balanced, content, and resilient individual. So don’t be afraid to indulge in a little ‘me time’ every now and then.