Too often I hear women talking about wellbeing and self-care as rest, exercise, bubble baths, and cups of tea – don’t get me wrong, they’re all valid! But what we don’t talk about enough is doing something that “fills your cup” – either stimulates your mind, makes you feel fulfilled emotionally or you connect with spiritually.
A quick note, I originally wrote this post back in October 2023, before my business was a thing and while I was still on sabbatical from the public service – I’ve republished it because it’s as relevant now as it was then.
What do I mean by “filling your own cup”?
I mean intentionally doing something that restores, inspires, or motivates you. You, doing this, for you. A 5-minute break doesn’t count, but it doesn’t have to be a pilgrimage to an Ashram either. It just has to be something you really want to do, that will lift you up and that you commit to.
Mine this week was a trip to Canberra to attend a dinner and hear Minister Katy Gallagher, Emma Fulu, and Michelle O’Neal speak about the Federal budget announced this week and how this addresses gender equality and the needs of women.
It wasn’t an overseas retreat, there was no yoga, but I was so excited to go, and not just because of the stellar speaking panel. To be in a room of (predominantly) women from all different backgrounds, career points, industries, and political persuasions… for the sole purpose of being involved in intelligent conversations and respectful debate. My mind needed that. I love being on sabbatical and running my own projects but I miss regular discussions with smart women. I missed feeling connected to that community. And I left with sore feet, tired eyes but happy, fulfilled, and motivated.
Why isn’t it the same if someone else does it for us?
I have a controversial view on this one. While you can absolutely feel energised and refreshed by something someone else does for you, a weekend with family, a weekend away on your own, the pilates voucher they gave you for your birthday – it will never be quite as powerful as the time you organise it for yourself.
When someone does something for you, it feels like a gift – something special that you wouldn’t normally do, or a treat. It’s either a thank you, so you feel like you’ve done something to earn it, or it’s for a special occasion so you feel like it’s a luxury. There’s also an element of feeling like you have “permission” to put yourself first because somebody has gifted it to you.
Organising it yourself feels the exact opposite. You are making a conscious decision to put yourself first. You are acknowledging that this isn’t a luxury, you don’t need a special occasion or anyone’s permission, and you need it as much as you deserve it. Sure, there are often feelings of guilt because we’re spending time or money on ourselves rather than putting it towards what someone else needs – but if you don’t push past that feeling and you keep putting off the things you want for yourself, you stand still. Prioritising yourself takes practice, and when you get better at it, you can learn to put the guilt aside and it feels amazing.
So I should quit my job and go Eat, Love, Pray?
While I fully respect author Elizabeth Gilbert, noooooo, you know that is not what I’m saying. I’m saying make an effort for you.
Right now, there is already something you want to do or have always wanted to try that is completely doable. It’s probably already popped into your brain, and if you’re anything like me it might be starting to niggle at you. Make it happen.
If it’s something a bit out of the realm of possibility in the next couple of weeks – start planning. Planning is action, whether it’s saving for a holiday to see the Eiffel Tower or starting a new business. But in the meantime, what’s the smaller thing? That’s a bit of a pain or a little bit expensive but you kind of know you could do it if you tried. Learning to make paella, going to see a play you’ve always wanted to see, joining a club, starting to write a book – I guarantee there is a thing you can make happen within the month and you need to do it.
Why is it so important?
Because making decisions where you are the only factor at play gives you control – not just a feeling of control, real control over an aspect of your life, and that is one of the biggest things we can do for our wellbeing.
Because your identity as an individual is important to how you feel and how you understand yourself. If you forget to do things for you, at some stage, you won’t feel like you anymore. You may already feel a bit like that. Having our own interests and values that make up who we are (rather than identifying as our job title or position in a family unit) is empowering and gives us a sense of self.
Because monotony is the enemy of progress. If you aren’t doing anything different, you aren’t growing, you aren’t moving and once you’re in that rut it’s so much harder to build momentum and move yourself forward again.
To wrap it up, that’s my two cents on what I believe you should be doing to prioritise your wellbeing. But now, I’m eager to hear from you. What’s your next move? What exciting plans will you set in motion within the next two weeks? Feel free to email me or tell me in the comments (once you’ve told someone, you’re more likely to do it!)