When people tell you to ‘fill your cup,’ what do they mean?

When you practice self-care, it also helps those around you

Shawna Barnes avatar

by Shawna Barnes |

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The song “Build Me Up Buttercup” always plays in my head when someone tells me to “fill your cup.” But how do we fill our cups when we’re too weak to pour from the kettle?

This topic has been on my mind lately as I dive into self-care to live my best possible life with myasthenia gravis (MG).

For someone who admittedly drinks an obscene amount of coffee, the phrase “fill your cup” has several meanings in my house. It usually means my coffee cup is empty and I’m asking my husband for a refill. But it’s also become synonymous with taking care of myself before taking care of others. It’s a reminder to engage in self-care.

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As with MG, self-care looks different for everyone. At a basic level, it’s the act of taking care of yourself. That seems pretty self-explanatory, but how frequently do we put ourselves last? How often is self-care the first thing to go when the going gets tough?

I mentioned last week that I regularly get massages as part of my well-being and treatment plan. It took me a long time to learn that taking care of myself isn’t selfish. I had to wrap my mind around the idea that self-care is an act of empathy and compassion. I was accustomed to offering these emotions to others, but not to myself. I had to embrace the idea of filling my cup as a critical part of my well-being.

Self-care doesn’t just affect you, but also those around you. When I treat myself with the same kindness and compassion that I show others, my husband doesn’t have to work as hard in his caregiver role. That makes both of us happy, so it’s a win-win!

Self-care can include various activities. I like to read, listen to music, mess around with the succulents I have in my office, get a massage, crochet, sculpt, and draw. My husband goes outside and cuts trees down and does target practice with his bow.

We also engage in couples self-care by shimmying around the kitchen to songs as diverse as our hobbies, from “Build Me Up Buttercup” by the Foundations to “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift.

During flights, there’s a reason we’re told to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first before helping others. Filling my cup before helping others is still a strange concept for me, but I’m working on it. Myasthenia gravis has taught me that it’s essential.

It’s funny to me that my desire to avoid creating more work for my husband was the final kick in the pants I needed to start taking care of myself. When I don’t need my husband’s help to get off the toilet, it’s a good day and provides me a shot of dopamine! Being able to better handle stress also keeps my MG symptoms tamped down.

So what fills your cup? Please share in the comments below.

Note: Myasthenia Gravis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Myasthenia Gravis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to myasthenia gravis.


Sue avatar


Nice reminder.

MaryAnn McCloy avatar

MaryAnn McCloy

Your comment about having husband help you up from toilet seat was solved for me with the 6 inch extension seat so that with the bar beside it make me able to get up easily.... try it too. ;)


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