In my last newsletter, I wrote about the need to give yourself a break via a vacation. Now I want to encourage you to reward yourself for your accomplishments, big and small. We can’t all win the highest honor in our respective industries, and there’s no committee giving out awards for surviving a hectic workday, and that’s why we should take time to honor and reward ourselves.
My parents divorced when I was 12, and my mom raised us three kids as a single mother. We didn’t have a lot of money and sometimes after my mom had paid all the bills and put aside what she could for an emergency fund, she may have had as little as $5 left at the end of the month. Mama began to resent how little of her own money she spent on herself and she knew that bottling that resentment could lead to an irresponsible splurge. So she implemented a new rule for herself: “pay yourself first.” Because Mama knew she didn’t have much room to splurge in the first place, she wouldn’t spend much, but if she knew there would only be $5 left in her budget, she’d treat herself to a $2 pair of earrings. (In the 80s and 90s, it was easier to find these kinds of sales).
When you feel like everything you do benefits everyone but you, beyond the basics of food and shelter, it can make you bitter. However, giving yourself a small token for working hard, for meeting all your work and personal goals, can keep you motivated and relieve tension.
On Parks and Recreation, Donna and Tom save up all year and go on a shopping spree, buying the most outlandish stuff, to treat themselves. One day, they invite Ben along because he’s been having a hard time and they want to show him how to relax and be good to himself. In the end, Ben bought a Batman suit and became emotionally overwhelmed at how good it felt to do something nice for himself, especially when he needed it the most.
Donna and Tom buy extravagant items like massages and “fine leather goods,” and I recently went on a vacation as a reward for finishing a book during a pandemic, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money to treat yourself. It doesn’t even need to be anything tangible. Did you get an overdue freelance payment after having to chase it down? Put on some red lipstick, blast Rihanna’s “Bitch Betta Have My Money,” and let the satisfaction move through your body as it will.
Maybe you finally decided to leave your camera off for a Zoom meeting and no one seemed to care. Reward yourself for taking a small step to maintain a little sanity into today’s hectic world. Light your favorite candle and indulge in a few moments of “YOU DID THAT”-scented peace.
Sometimes we do work in the background that may be crucial but doesn’t get acknowledged the way it should. You know the work you’ve done and you know that project would not have been a success without you. You know your child may not have received an A on their homework if you hadn’t sat yawning at the kitchen table to help them push through a difficult problem. Instead of expecting a parade, you can take yourself out for a nice dinner. And if someone questions why you’re treating yourself so well, you can simply say “because I can.”
No, we don’t always need to give ourselves a cookie for doing the things we’re supposed to do, but it is a nice treat. It’s also a good way of acknowledging that not everyone does what they should. Sometimes when our colleagues or loved ones don’t follow through with a task or promise, we pick up the weight and suffer in silence. We also tend to make excuses for why they dropped the ball. We should always do the right thing without expectation of an award, but treating yourself to something like a warm brownie or an hour with your phone on “do not disturb” helps make it easier to pick up the extra burden next time.
My mother taught me the importance of pampering myself. I treat myself well, therefore my family members, lovers, partners, and colleagues should, too. Watching my mother honor her accomplishments with small treats showed me that all one’s hard work doesn’t have to be only for everyone else. It also gave me permission to celebrate myself, even if no one else did. Not only is rewarding yourself a good way to cut off budding resentment, but it’s also a good way of showing others how you want to be treated.