Are You Filling Your Own Cup First?

This is a post I wrote especially for ProHealth’s Inspirational Corner and it first appeared there in September 2016.

When energy is limited we have to choose very carefully how to spend it. For many of us one of the most difficult losses to get over when chronic illness strikes, is that of the ability to contribute and serve a purpose. We feel guilty that we can no longer do all the things we used to do to support others; guilty that we have to do so much taking without being able to do much giving. Because of this we often find that we will often spend the majority of our energy trying to contribute in some way. Even if we are wise enough to know that we need to invest some of our energy in our health and well-being, the proportion we dedicate to it is likely to be small if there are ways that we can still contribute to others.

I was recently challenged* to consider the question of whether I serve from an empty cup, or whether I allow my cup to overflow and serve from the saucer. My first thought was that serving (contributing) is one of the things that tops up my cup, but then I acknowledged that actually it never quite gets topped up to overflowing.  It seemed to make sense that if I pay more attention to making sure my cup is full before I serve, then it will be able to constantly renew itself. I’ve been experimenting with this idea ever since with great results.  I’ve found that by putting the pleasurable activities that feed my spirit first and not leaving them way down this list for ‘if I have energy after I’ve done all my work’, my energy has been so much higher, I’ve got just as much work done as before but I’ve been able to enjoy the fun stuff too and I’ve felt so much happier!

Now I guess the concept of a full cup is a little difficult to envision when energy is severely limited but let’s just imagine it to be a small cup.  If you imagine all the small ways you could possibly experience satisfaction that are realistic to your pain and energy levels right now, how big could that cup be?

pin showing a cup being filledNow ask yourself do you pour that out in the service of others before you’ve filled it up? What kind of low energy activities do you enjoy that boost your spirit and make life a more satisfying experience? Do you put them at the bottom of your list after making sure you’ve done as much as you can to meet your responsibilities first? The fact is that these kinds of activities are energising, when we put them first we have more to give! I’ challenge you to experiment with the idea of filling up your own cup and serving others only from the overflow in your saucer!

*the true reflections visibility challenge by Michelle Holmes

Image courtesy of

Updated 19/04/21

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