The other day I chanced upon this art on Instagram…a woman filling a very large cup with a very small coffee dispenser (let’s call it a cup here for simplicity). The image remained in me for days, and I kept revisiting it every now and then.
I want to begin with a disclaimer. While the image shows a woman filling a cup, it’s got nothing to do with being a woman. This is what social media has drilled into us that we women are givers while the whole world is a taker. We’re all humans; we’re all takers and givers at some point of time in our lives. Hence filling one’s cup is purely basis an individual and has nothing to do with our gender and who we are.
As a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, and a professional…I have several roles to play. Each role has its own set of demands, challenges, responsibilities and the joy that comes from it. Does it mean to say that men (or other genders) play fewer roles? Of course not. Men play the roles of fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, friends, managers…and more.
Each of us has to fill our own cup; no one else can. Every role has its set of demands and challenges, and it is a lifelong task, and neither are there any shortcuts.
By filling your cup, I mean putting yourself first. When was the last time you chose yourself?
As Edna, from The Incredibles 2 said, “Done properly, parenting can be a heroic act… Done properly.”
Parenting is not for the faint-hearted. I realised this a few years ago while raising my daughter. Initially, I kept putting her first at all times, and it started to burn me out as it left little to no time for rest and recreation, be it a simple act of enjoying a cup of tea sitting on the balcony.
The mommy guilt was wearing me down, and with constant social media pressure of how other moms were always getting things right, how other kids were always more accomplished than your own. How other kids were always listening to their moms, and ours didn’t. The constant fear of being judged by ‘imaginary people’ in society, of not being a good mother and raising an accomplished child.
I realised, I had to change that. Little by little, I started putting myself first (just like the tiny cup), filling the bigger cup. I started looking after myself more, pampering myself more as I realised how challenging it can be to fulfil so many roles daily.
It is a continuous process to wean myself from this mommy guilt. Guilt is not taking me anywhere; it wasn’t making me a better person. It just filled me up with resentment. I chose to be kind to myself and remove the mommy guilt. I decided to step back, step aside and take a pause. I decided to just let it be when things were getting overwhelming as I couldn’t do it all, and that is okay.
This does not mean I don’t love my family any less; of course not, I love them to bits, but I decided to love myself first. I decided to be kind to myself as I realised how hard I have been trying, the efforts I put in, and the sleepless nights worrying about my child when she’s unwell. I realised that despite doing my best, I had no control over the external environment, and it was time to let go of the feeling of control.
We meet difficult people at work or outside, and it takes a lot of mental strength to remain calm during the storm. It’s a pity when a few from the new generation in the workforce lack respect and humility towards their co-workers or seniors, and that’s when I realised it is not my job to teach them manners. It is not my job to fix them.
Filling my cup also means realising what is possible and what is not, setting boundaries, shifting into the self-restoration mode, and protecting oneself first.
Filling my cup also means not trying to change people, but to be a better version of myself. Instead of complaining, act upon making things better, starting with myself. Yes, it is all hard work, but that’s how it is!
These are small baby steps, just like the tiny cup, to restore our internal balance, just like the bigger cup.
So, whatever the old unyielding patterns we may have been clinging to for years, it may be time to acknowledge that and shed them to start filing our cup first. So, will you start filling your cup first?
Contributor: Tanya Munshi
Writing Mentor & Founder of The Lifestyle Portal.