You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup

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You know those days when you are so depleted you cannot even function? Those days when you cannot, and I mean really cannot stop yourself from snapping at everyone and everything? Those days when everyone seems to be on a mission to make your life miserable? You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Were you raised to be a good girl? Were you encouraged to give to everyone? Did you believe that the ideal woman worked and worked and worked? Have you ever been called “superwoman”? You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Have you ever had someone gush, “I don’t know how you do it?” Did you ever feel like crying when you heard those words? Have you ever lay in bed wondering how you ended up this way? You can’t pour from an empty cup.

We all work hard. We all deserve some self-care. Recently there has been an increase in conversations regarding “self-care” and how everyone, especially women and mothers, HAVE to make time for self-care. The days of martyrdom are gone. We know and understand that it is necessary, nay, CRUCIAL, for mothers to take time for themselves- to DO something for themselves.

But it’s not just about self-care and taking the time to drink the coffee or eat the chocolate or arrange a time to go to the gym. Filling your cup means so much more than doing some items on a self-care list.

You Can’t Pour From An Empty Cup

What does this mean?

Just like a cup cannot pour water if there is no water in it, a human being cannot extend kindness, grace, or generosity when there is no kindness, grace, and generosity in them. When you are running low on these reserves, then you cannot possibly give to others. How do you fill your cup of love and kindness so that you can give to others? By showing yourself love and compassion first.

There are so many ways to “do self-care” that are cheap or free. You can take baths. You can exercise, drink a yummy coffee, hang out with friends (here are some ideas for a girl’s day out), watch a movie, etc. I feel like sometimes I am bombarded with this. Take an exercise class! By that drink! Eat that chocolate! Sometimes I feel like there are moments when I feel stressed out about the self-care that I haven’t done. Have I taken care of myself today? Am I prioritizing myself? I MUST go exercise, and I MUST find a friend to have coffee with. It’s almost become another thing on my to-do list.

The things on my self-care list? I enjoy them. I want to do them, and I want to continue doing them. There are benefits to all of them, and at certain times they are exactly what I need for my mental and physical health. But these things are not necessarily what is going to fill your empty cup.

Let me give you an example, recently I have been doing my best to be cheerful and loving to my husband and kids. I’ve been working hard and it’s been succeeding. I also have been insisting on certain items of self-care for myself- baths, walks, etc. What is different between now and last month when even though I was practicing self-care I found myself angry and snapping all the time? The main thing is daycare. My baby just started daycare this month after being home for months. This means that I am able to get work done during the day instead of staying up all night.

Self-care activities allow you to keep running. It fills your glass to the brimming. It doesn’t fill your cup if it’s still empty.

You can’t always just paper over the cracks with a bath or a walk. You need to fill the cup before topping it off.

Show Yourself Compassion

You need to show yourself the grace and compassion and kindness and love that you show others to fill your cup. Grabbing a cup of coffee while you criticize yourself, blame yourself, or guilt yourself will not get you to the place of loving kindness that you need. It can help ease the pain, it can help give you some fuel while you run on empty (apologies for mixing up the metaphors here), but it won’t allow you to fill your empty cup.

Human beings are meant to give. Mothers are givers. it’s in our essence. We yearn to help. We want to give. But to learn how to give, we first need to know how to take. We need to extend ourselves the same non-judgment we give to others. We need to provide ourselves with love. We need to be kind to ourselves. We need to give ourselves some slack!

Everyone struggles in their own way. We are all coping with our own challenges. We can support each other, but no one else can truly understand the challenge that we face. Only I am living my life, and only you are living yours. We need to realize that as hard as it may seem, we are doing the best we can with the tools we have.

We are often kinder to others than we are to ourselves. When we speak to family members, friends, colleagues, we cut them slack. We understand that they are not perfect, that life is hard, and that we all need help at times. Why don’t we extend that same understanding to ourselves? Why do we not allow ourselves to be human? To be imperfect?

To practice self-care that works, you need to put yourself first. Putting yourself first is not selfish. Putting yourself first makes you into a whole person who can happily and peacefully give to others. If you are someone who takes care of themselves in the best way possible, then even when times are stressful, you will be able to handle them. 

You can't pour from an empty cup pin

How Do I Choose To Take Care of Myself?

I recently came to the realization that I need to prioritize my self-care in a way that makes sense for me.

I need to be selfish about the things that are important to me- not the things society thinks are important to me.

For different people, this can mean different things.

Getting enough sleep may be extremely important to some people. For me, it was staying up late and taking a bath even though I would be tired.

Guided mediation may be a lifesaver for some. For me, it was taking a walk with loud music blaring in my ears.

Indulging in chocolate may be good for some. For me, it was making sure I had hot, fresh coffee every morning.

How do I know what I really want?

Honestly, the answer is there. When you think you want something- stop. Let the inner voice inside of you bubble up and LISTEN to what is saying. Do you want to drag yourself to sleep right now? If the answer is yes, then go for it! If the answer is, no- then do something else.

Of course, we still have to take care of ourselves in a healthy and functional way. If you constantly find yourself really wanting things that are damaging to yourself or others, you should take the time to find out why your inner voice is pushing you to be constantly destructive. This discovery can usually happen in therapy or another place of constructive healing. Healing your inner child and clarifying your inner voice is the most important way to heal yourself. Only then can you start living a happy and full life and start giving to others.

I’m curious what other people, mothers specifically, think about this topic. Do you think self-care is the best way to help yourself feel less depleted and help with your positive energy?

Do you think we need to change the way we think about filling our empty cups? 

Hi! I am a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. I have always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start my blog after a period of extended unemployment. That experience really changed the way I viewed my relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education.

3 thoughts on “You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup”

  1. Love this. Eleanor Brownn’s wise words hold true for us all.

    The personal element is so important. Self-care has been appropriated to be a marketing tool for smoothies and bubble baths, but I prefer Brianna Wiest’s quote about it “making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.” Obviously, as you say, what that life looks like is going to be totally personal.

    In fact, even managing your money well is a type of self-care, because a life without money troubles is a life you don’t need to escape from.

    Reply
  2. ‘Do you think self-care is the best way to help yourself feel less depleted and help with your positive energy?’

    Yes, absolutely. Without a doubt. Occasionally my toddler goes to stay overnight with MIL and it’s like I feel like a different person somehow.

    Reply

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