It can be really easy to focus on what everyone else needs. What do my kids need as they’re navigating the challenges of virtual-learning? What does my spouse need as they’re trying to carry everything at home and work? What do my coworkers need as we’re balancing all of this and trying to perform well at the same time? What do our older parents need as they’re battling isolation and loneliness? What do my friends need as they’re walking this path at a distance?

All of these are important – especially right now. But first, before we fill anyone else’s cup, we need to fill our own.

That’s where this conversation begins – I can’t share what I don’t have. If I’m not healthy (mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually), I can’t help the people in my circle be healthy. I can’t share anything from a cup that’s empty or even half full.

Many of us were taught at a young age not to be selfish. Focusing too much on ourselves pointed to being greedy or self-seeking. Serving others was a sign of maturity and caring. I agree with those beliefs wholeheartedly. Focusing on others is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve woven into my life. 

That said, self-care is not selfish. It’s essential. It’s not self-centered. It’s what strengthens us to center our attention outward. Self-care is not greedy. It’s what creates the energy we need to help lift one another up. Self-care is how we equip ourselves to give to others.

A quick note to the other men reading this…

As boys growing up, we were never taught to focus on our self-care. Instead, being masculine required something different. When challenges come, we tough them out. Rub some dirt on that and get back up. When we’re tired and wearing out, we go harder and get more aggressive. You can rest when you’re dead. When we’re feeling emotionally strained (or any other feeling for that matter), keep it to yourself. Push all those feelings down inside.

Hey son, “Be a man.”

Self-care still isn’t something we teach our to our sons or truly value as men. It’s not a skill (yes, self-care is a skill) we encourage, pursue, or put energy into developing. Masculinity is still measured differently…

But here’s the reality – we have to look back at that cup. If your cup isn’t being filled, whether you’re a woman or a man, you can’t help fill anyone else’s cup. Sharing is hard when you’re living in lack. So how do we fill our cups? What does that look like, and what are some real-world ways to care for ourselves? Here are some simple ideas to consider, no matter your gender:

  • Get enough sleep and make time to rest
  • Cook, eat well, and protect your gut health
  • Exercise and move
  • Spend time with loved ones, family, and friends
  • Stop from time to time and take breaks
  • Walk your dog
  • Take a wander through the woods
  • Capture your thoughts in a journal
  • Spend time focusing on what you’re thankful for
  • Join a professional peer group
  • Be with friends, in-person or virtually
  • Use your sick time when you’re sick
  • Go to church, meditate, and pray
  • Start a new hobby, or dive deeper into an old one
  • Take some time away by yourself
  • Turn off the tech
  • Get organized and remove some clutter

Here’s one final self-care tip: All of those things in that list above are great, but they will NEVER happen if you don’t schedule a time for them, and then protect that time aggressively. Why is protecting it so hard? It’s like I said in the beginning… we have so many other people in our lives that need us to fill their cups as well. There is a constant tug on our hours and our energy, and without some boundaries we’ll always be distracted and pulled in another direction. 

I want to be the kind of spouse and dad who always provides for my family. I want to be the kind of partner and teammate that my coworkers can count on for anything. I want to be the kind of sibling and son that my family can go to when they’re in need. I want to be the kind of friend that my friends call first. And, if I want all of those things, I need to make sure I have something in my cup to share with them. 

I need to prioritize my own self-care.

I’m writing about this today because it’s an area where I have let up over the last month or so, and I am feeling it. I caught myself feeling a bit more edgy, and my tank was feeling a little low. This message is as much for me as it is for any of you. I needed this reminder to slow down, take that wander through the woods, step back from the tech, and eat a little better. I needed this nudge to prioritize me for a moment… not giant leaps, but a bunch of small things that will make a big difference.

The Takeaway

This blog has always been about releasing ourselves from that feeling of being stretched too thin. Self-care is one of the first ways we can confront that reality. Today, pick one or two things off that list above and invest in yourself. I am going to do the same. Then, there will be something in our cups to share with someone else when they need us.

Part of caring for ourselves means taking in messages that are encouraging, positive, and motivating. That’s what we’re trying to create through the Depth Not Width blog. Ready for more? Subscribe here.