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You Can’t Give from an Empty Cup

an empty glass cup on a table

What do you need today?

Do you know the answer to that question? I ask myself that every morning in my quiet time. It is such a simple question and my answers are usually the same – I need to get that project finished; I need to buy milk; I need to exercise; I need to talk to a friend; I need to read a book for fun.

We make lists and we take courses – hell, I even teach some on how to make lists and get it all done. We rush from task to task and meeting to meeting all day. And, I believe for me – it was easier to stick to the list than to examine how I was feeling – or what I needed. Feelings are fuzzy and I can’t control them. Lists are manageable.

My lesson is to not block the feelings, as messy as they may seem, to speak up when I don’t agree – not to win an argument – just to be heard. My lesson is to ask ‘What do I need’ every day and honor what comes up.

We are hardwired to take care of others first. Many believe that is the right thing to do. I agree that taking care of others is important. But only after we are full. We don’t have anything to give until we have replenished our well. Asking what I need is taking a baby step into self-care. We can’t give from an empty cup. We can’t be there for the people in our lives when we are depleted and exhausted.

Taking care of you is not selfish – it is necessary. We don’t control a lot, but we do control our level of health and happiness – I call these the big rocks. Those things that bring meaning to our lives. If we don’t put us on our calendars and our lists – we don’t get taken care of. We don’t exercise or pray or spend time with people that matter. We don’t read, buy something just for fun, or go o to a movie and laugh or cry.
I need to focus on my feelings and what I need to truly be the person that God intended. I don’t believe that he wants me to ignore my feelings or needs. So, why do we do it?

I also look at my calendar on Sunday afternoon and add in my self-care needs. Exercise, calls to family, lunches with friends, and usually, a night out with my husband are scheduled. These things sustain me. If I do not schedule them, they don’t happen. Taking care of me is my job. If it does not happen, I’ve got no one to blame but me. Maybe I did not prioritize me. I let your priorities take over and control mine. That is my fault – not yours.

The key ingredient to taking care of you first is learning how to say no with grace. Saying no or not now is often the kindest thing we can do for ourselves and the other person. Think of the times that you accepted a request and knew you did not have the time or interest to do it. You resented that you had accepted it and felt like you had no choice. Remember, you always have a choice.

What do you need today? Ask yourself and heed the answer every day.

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