The importance of treating yourself

Having fresh flowers in my apartment is a small luxury with a big impact on my mood.

I have learned over the years, especially since starting grad school, that you shouldn't wait or depend on others to treat you from time to time and reward/celebrate your own accomplishments. There's a popular saying that you can't expect others to love you until you love yourself, and I think this is a similar concept. If you don't reward yourself or treat yourself to the things you love, you're not setting an example to others in your life that you deserve these things. It's even more important to treat yourself occasionally if you're the type of person who tends to reward and celebrate others. Also please note, as I will discuss later, I'm not talking about spending large amounts of money, the focus should be on how it makes you feel not how much you spend.

As someone who's been single for most of her life, I learned not to wait for someone to give me flowers or buy my jewelry, and that these things sometimes mean more when I buy them for myself than when they're given to me. For a lot of people I know and talk to, the thought of buying themselves flowers or going to the movies by themselves "just because" feels weird or wrong somehow. Why should it ever be wrong to treat ourselves the way we deserve to be treated and would want to be treated by the people in our lives?

To celebrate my ABD status we "upgraded" our usual lunch on Sundays to include a glass of prosecco and soufflé.

When it comes to celebrating life's milestones, why wait for someone to say, "hey, you did this amazing thing! we should celebrate!" I'm a huge advocate for rewarding yourself, for big and small accomplishments. Sometimes this involves me saying to my family, "I want to do something special for my birthday," or "Let's order prosecco and dessert at lunch this weekend to celebrate [insert PhD accomplishment of the moment]". As a grad student especially, there are so many miserable, stressful moments, when you get a victory, you celebrate it, whether it's simply surviving the semester or passing a huge milestone in your program.

But you can also celebrate little things, or do something nice/fun for yourself for no other reason than simply because you're amazing and you deserve it. I think this is something that a lot of us struggle with. My generation seems plagued by imposter syndrome and low self-esteem, combined with anxiety and depression and a whole host of other issues. Personally I don't think we're the first generation to deal with this, we're probably just the first to be so open and vocal about it. But with all of this comes an natural instinct to downplay our accomplishments and tell ourselves that that promotion at work/acceptance to present at a conference/landing a new client/earning a great commission/etc is just part of the normal routine or isn't anything special and doesn't deserve recognition, even from yourself. We also convince ourselves that we're not really that great, we don't deserve a little thing to cheer us up, we're not that special so why bother?

And we really need to stop.

I was recently talking about finally earning my PhD Candidacy and my ABD status in my program (ABD means All But Dissertation for those wondering) in a YouTube video update. And in the video I was getting a bit caught up in how impressed I was with myself for everything I'd accomplished this past year in school and I immediately started apologizing and saying I wasn't "trying to brag". I had to be reminded by one of my amazing subscribers and friends that it's not bragging to say you're proud of yourself. (Thanks Belinda, I needed that reminder!) And it's so true! But we (especially us women) seem to be trained to think that being proud of our accomplishments and celebrating those achievements publicly is "bragging" or waving our own flag a bit too much. And that's really sad. Like, really really sad. Why do we do this?!

So I've long been an advocate of celebrating and rewarding myself, or simply treating myself to little things from time to time to cheer myself up or to remind myself that there are good things in life to look forward to. Some of these things cost more than others. Some involve other people, some I do just on my own. But they all make me happy and remind me to appreciate all I've done and reward myself for the hard work I've put in. This semester I bought myself three gifts, a pen, a card holder, and a ring, to celebrate my portfolio review pass, my comp exam pass, and my colloquy pass. Each one was a higher value than the one before because the accomplishment was bigger. But none of them were extremely expensive. And now, when I use these items, I think about these accomplishments and milestones and feel proud of what I've achieved. It's a good feeling.

Pen from Swarovski to celebrate my portfolio review pass.

Card holder from Ted Baker to celebrate passing my Comp Exam.

The ring I bought myself from Swarovski to celebrate my ABD status and earning my PhD Candidacy. 
And as for dealing with critics that want to judge how women, especially single women, spend their own money? Just ignore them. Society (as a general collective) is threatened by nothing more than smart, independent women, with money of their own. And people just love tearing down a woman who happens to love nice things. We're shallow and superficial and there must be a man somewhere paying for it all. For those of us in and/or interested in the beauty community on YouTube, all we have to do is read the comments of any luxury beauty/lifestyle YouTube channel and we find examples of this kind of nastiness and criticism. And it's so damaging. It only reinforces our natural instinct to NOT purchase something frivolous as an occasional treat or reward. But I say screw them. I work hard in my life. Maybe I make frivolous purchases, maybe I buy stuff I don't "need". Actually, there's not maybe about it. I KNOW I make frivolous purchases and buy stuff I don't "need", but I really don't care. I spend my money wisely, I save up for most of these little rewards, I stick within a certain budget. I'm still paying my bills. It's not like I'm spending my PhD stipend and student loans on Chanel bags or Cartier jewelry. I admit I'm extravagant but I'm not completely irresponsible lol. 

But money is a very subjective thing. What's "reasonable" to me might be absolutely reckless spending to someone else. So the main point I want to make, is that none of these rewards or treats needs to be of a material sort or cost you a lot of money. In fact some of the things I do cost very little/are free. You have to choose what best fits your budget, your lifestyle, your personality, etc. Personally, I love shopping, so telling myself I'm going to take an afternoon just to go read a book at a coffee shop and buy one item at Sephora, is one of my favorite things to do. Now sure, one item could cost you a bit, but it could also be just a $5 sheet mask that you later use to pamper yourself. If you don't like shopping, maybe you skip Sephora and just read at the coffee shop. I know for most grad students taking an afternoon off work to just read for fun is a huge luxury. The point is, find what works for you. 

I recently enjoyed an afternoon at the Scottsdale Quarter doing some shopping at Sephora and then reading at Press Coffee, it was a great afternoon and so relaxing. I definitely needed it after all the stress of the semester!
Here is a list of some ideas:

  • Read at a coffee shop
  • Buy yourself flowers, figure out what shop near you has the best deals and take advantage. My local Costco has 2 dozen roses for only $17, and they tend to last me at least a full week.
  • Take a walk/hike (not as a workout but just to slowly wander and enjoy the scenery)
  • Take an evening at home to enjoy a drink, put on a face mask, and watch Netflix (I advocate doing this at least once a week!)
  • Go to the movies, with a friend or by yourself
  • Buy yourself a cupcake at your favorite bakery, have a rough day a work? Buy a cupcake. Have a good day at work? Buy a cupcake! Seriously, even at the "nice" places they're usually not more than $4 and you totally deserve that cupcake
  • Meeting friends for lunch or happy hour? Upgrade your usual glass of wine or cocktail to a glass of prosecco or champagne, it's not going to cost that much more than your usual drink order but will feel much more special.
  • Go visit your local museum. Depending on the museum this might not even cost you. In the UK a lot of museums are free and during the two summers I spent in England I would just spend an afternoon exploring different museums. But even here in Phoenix, the Phoenix Art Museum is free one evening every week. You can also find deals and discounts for a lot of other cultural things in your town, so do some research and treat yourself to some art and culture.
  • Live in a city with great weather? Go for a picnic! Take an afternoon to just go hang out in a park under a tree and relax. I can't really do this in Arizona but I did this constantly both summers I lived in Oxford and I miss it so much.
  • If you know you've got a big milestone coming up, save up some money for something you've been wanting. For me this is usually either something sparkly from Swarovski or something floral printed at Ted Baker lol. But it could also be a new video game you've been wanting, a new fancy pen you've been lusting after, a new pair of Nikes for the gym, etc. Even people that aren't big on designer items, probably still have something they really want but usually talk themselves out of buying. Just got a big promotion and you've been eyeing an Apple watch but could never justify the cost? Come on, if you can afford it and you really want it, you've earned it.
  • Money not an issue but you just don't like buying "things"? Ok, how about giving yourself a weekend at a nice hotel in a nearby town and just getting away for a couple days. Rewards and treats don't have to be about material items, they can also be about experiences. 
Celebration at home with a mini bottle of rose and a cupcake from Caketini.
These are just a few examples but hopefully they give you some ideas of how you can adapt this to your own life. The main point is finding things that you love/love to do, but rarely allow yourself the chance to indulge in. These days we're working harder than ever but not really enjoying ourselves along the way. We're living to work not working to live. We're losing any sense of work/life balance. It's ok to stop and have a Netflix night or sleep in ridiculously late on a Saturday morning. It's definitely worth it to spend an afternoon at the movies (even by yourself) or sitting in a coffee shop reading a novel (or writing one! that's a huge luxury for me!). 

My general tip is, if there's something you really want or want to do, and are able to do, but constantly talk yourself out of it, just do it. It's totally worth it and you absolutely deserve it.

Let me know in the comments what/if you do anything to treat yourself.



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