Pouring from an empty vessel

Self-worth means putting yourself as a priority, and investing time in that priority.
by Megan Nolde, for the Braithwaite Blog at Shockoe Bottom Performance

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

Have you ever planned to work out “at some point” during a day, and never quite gotten to it?

Have you ever thought – “well tomorrow I’ll start….” and then tomorrow you don’t?

Yes – this is a new year. 

Yes – this is a new year’s blog post from a gym.

But no – it won’t be a lecture. It won’t be a guilt trip. And it’s not even really about fitness.

Instead, I’m interested in what happens in those moments I just mentioned – the way we deny ourselves the time and space to take care of ourselves, in order to “be more productive” at work or around the house. In order to give of ourselves to someone else, rather than filling that cup inside ourselves, on our own terms. 

No one else can take care of you as well as you are (potentially) able to take care of yourself. No one else can know you as well, understand you as well, as you can.

Before that can happen, though, we have to believe we are worth taking care of. We have to believe we are worth the time and space it will take to care for ourselves. We have to believe that more than we believe that our value is tied to our productivity for someone else, or our benefit to another person (even when that benefit is altruistic). If we don’t believe we are worth the hard work, dedication, and potential losses and wins that come with paying attention to our own needs and meeting them – tomorrow’s beginning won’t ever come.

This isn’t to say that everyone who doesn’t prioritize the time it takes to invest in themselves is someone who also has low self-worth – for some of us, that self-care goes out the window first because we care SO DEEPLY about others that we put off things that we might not otherwise, or take on too much, in an effort to show that care for someone else. But ultimately, we need to show that care to ourselves too – and that begins with investing in understanding ourselves enough to know why we put off our own self-investment so easily. That’s honestly a blog post for another month in itself– suffice to say, caring for others is never more important than honest investment in yourself as the source of that caring presence.

image credit: Aarti Chauhan on Scopio

In other words, we prioritize the things that matter to us – and this isn’t a knock against valuing what we do for a living or our loved ones. It IS, though, a direct and kind reminder that you need to be present in your own life in order to be fully present in the lives of others. The greatest gift my parents gave me was a strong sense of self, a strong sense of loving grace, and the ability to understand myself first. Those gifts got me through an awkward childhood (being the “old soul” in your elementary school class is one way to stand out, haha), an abusive first long-term relationship (that lasted for 8 years), the recovery from that relationship, and the multitude of failures, successes, dark days, bright spots, and everyday life in between.

I’ve been in spaces internally where I didn’t put myself first. There is nothing new to me under the sun when it comes to self-denial. I’ve seen it, I’ve done it, I’ve stopped doing it. And I can tell you, from both personal experience and professional knowledge, that self-denial of basic self-care is a symptom of lacking self-worth. I’m not knocking Mother Theresa or her like here – but in all honesty, to be as altruistic as she was, she had to take care of herself as well.

We can’t pour out for others from an empty vessel. And WE are that empty vessel too often. 

Self-care comes in many forms – and rarely is it related to consumption. It might involve the gym – working out, striving for fitness and wellness and the mental benefits that entails. It might involve cooking something for ourselves instead of eating out (and enjoying the evolutionary pull to hearth and self-sustainment). It might be teaching ourselves to create something with our own hands, or investing in some quiet self-reflection during a deep soak in the tub. It could even be engaging the services of a personal trainer, a therapist, or someone to teach you a new skill. 

If no one else has told you recently, then please allow me to – you are worth investing in. Your worth is worth your time, and your time is the one thing you cannot borrow back once spent.

Take time this year to invest in your care.

Take time this year to fill the vessel of yourself, and see the difference it makes in your ability to be present for the rest of your life.

Do it today.