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Pay Yourself First, Part 2

  • June 8, 2021


First, if you haven’t read last week’s issue, please make sure you do… but if you missed it,  I’ll quickly repeat what I said last week.

  • Paying yourself first (also known as “filling your own cup) allows you to have more to give to others
  • It is not selfish.
  • It allows you to better caretake for the people and causes that are important to you.

Paying yourself first says you love the people and things that are important to you enough to take good care of yourself, for them. It demonstrates to your partner, children, and community that you are committed to taking responsibility for your own health and happiness. And most important, it gives others permission to do the same.

After the 2020 we’ve all had, it’s more important now than ever to prioritize self-care and “paying yourself first.” We ALL want to give right now—to our families and loved ones, to our jobs (so we can continue to provide for our families), and our community as we stand up for our own rights or in allyship. But letting our cups run dry means we can’t show up tomorrow to do the work, and everyone suffers for that.

Sometimes people think unless you have the time or money to give yourself grand gestures, self-care doesn’t really have an impact. If I can’t get a 90-minute massage, take the day off from work, or send my kids off to grandma’s for the weekend, will my efforts even matter?

YES. In fact, 99% of paying myself first comes in the form of small gestures performed every day—things that don’t cost me anything and don’t take much (or any) time. They work because they remind me I am worthy of holding my boundaries, I am worthy of care, and I am worthy of reclaiming a tiny part of my day just for me. They fill my cup, little by little… and over the course of a day, a splash here and there absolutely adds up.

Here are some of the small gestures I have implemented to pay myself first.

  • I make my bed every morning. This reminds me I am a disciplined person who deserves a neat environment.
  • I do not check email or social media for a set period of time after waking. This is huge for my mental health and reminds me I deserve to reserve this part of my day for my own restorative practices (cold shower, exercise, meditation).
  • I give my kid an hour of screen time so I can work out. Is it ideal? Actually, yes. He’s happy. I get my workout in. Everyone wins.
  • I eat meals from a bowl or plate at a table. Too many times in a richly scheduled day, I’d eat lunch standing over the counter while scrolling through my phone. Now, I plate my food and buy myself at least 10 minutes to just be with my meal. It feels calming and grounding.
  • I spend time regularly looking for new music for my playlists. Music is so good for my mental health, and a fresh song is energizing, especially in the gym.
  • I do not check email or social media before bed. I have learned this the hard way—90% of the time it’s fine, but 10% of the time, I see something that keeps me up for hours. I no longer give my phone that power.
  • I read every night before I go to bed, even if it’s just for five minutes.  I carve this time out just for me, and it’s my most anticipated nightly “treat.”
  • I regularly purge areas of my house. Do you remember the story of the forks I hated, and how I eventually realized I don’t ever have to use them? I gave them away. I do that often now—with books I didn’t like, clothes I don’t wear, and gifts I won’t use.
  • I use the “good fork,” fresh candles, or the new Sharpie.
  • I say no unapologetically when it does not serve me, for both work and personal requests. This pays me more than almost anything else, because not only am I holding a boundary, I’m preventing my cup from being disproportionately drained by agreeing to something I don’t really want to do.

This is just a short list from my own daily life. The point is for you to look at your daily schedule and ask yourself, “Where are some areas where I could carve out something just for me—things that would make me feel good and help me stay energized?” There are no right answers here. (Maybe leaving your bed messy would make you feel great—like you don’t need to spend even one second on tasks you don’t care about!)

Today, you can pay yourself first by taking ten minutes to introspect and come up with your own list of actions. I hope you realize that without changing much, you can add some small actions into your daily routine to start putting some of that energetic capital you spend each day back into your own bank account.

XO Melissa

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