A Gift From You To You

A Gift from you to you

Words by Ellen Common
Illustration by Max Campbell

If you Google ‘giving’, the definition that comes up is: ‘providing love or other emotional support; caring’.

With this in mind, the brain naturally jumps to the concept of giving to others: an activity and idea that most are familiar with from a young age.

It is taught and emphasised as having great importance… and it does, of course, in all its wonderful forms: from volunteering for a charity, to lending an ear to a friend, to buying someone a pint at the pub. Yet sometimes, and especially amidst the demands of the modern lifestyle, we forget to give to the one person closest to us: our own self. The very self that cannot truly give to others if it forgets and neglects its own needs.

I recently saw a stage adaption of the iconic French film Amèlie, which was the stimulus for this article, and which made me consider my interpretation of the idea of giving to oneself. 

For those who are not familiar with the story, Amèlie is a shy young woman living in Paris with an eccentric imagination and a desire to help others, which she does through subtle, quirky acts of kindness. However, her focus on others leaves her shrouded in isolation as she struggles with her own identity. This struck me with the realisation that we have to focus on ourselves, at least a little, in order to truly give to others.

As a final-year student, I have been faced with the emotional challenges of university life over the past few years, and until now I never felt like I dealt with them particularly well. Looking back to the very beginning of my studies, I remember being totally unexpectedly, and uncontrollably, overwhelmed on a Skype call to my parents, and I couldn’t express to them, or even comprehend myself, why this was. Four years on, a lot of late-night contemplation, cups of tea and conversations with friends have led me to realise that university is simply a tough time.

“[University] is a wonderful and incredibly unique time—but it’s hard, and that’s okay.”

It’s a wonderful and incredibly unique time—but it’s hard, and that’s okay. In first year, most of us have absolutely no idea what we’re doing (I didn’t anyway), and then in the subsequent years, life moves at such a rapid pace and with such intensity that there is barely time to take a breather. Nevertheless, this year I have finally found myself in a place where I feel more in control of my emotions, or at least I am able to understand and to rationalise them. What’s changed? I’ve started taking some time to give to myself. By this I refer to doing certain things, however big or small, to make myself feel good, or calmer at least. And with the nights drawing in and winter rapidly approaching, now is a better time than ever to start doing this.

A big part of giving to myself came from when I started doing yoga. My mum has been doing yoga for years and always preached about the mental and physical benefits, but like many teenage girls when their mum tells them something, I was sceptical and didn’t listen. To me, it was simply something that my mum and her friends did on a Monday night.

However, I can now happily admit that she is one hundred percent correct—I don’t actually attend a class, but practice at home with a YouTube yoga instructor, and would highly recommend this. This is just a small example of something that works for me. But giving to yourself can come in many forms; it may even be something as small as having one of those delicious, overpriced Gü chocolate pots, or just lying down for ten minutes and thinking about nothing. It is about finding what works for you—finding something, or some things, to gift yourself with, frequently.

By giving to yourself, you are helping to give to your mind—giving it time to rest, to relax, and to process the challenges that we face in our everyday life. This, in turn, can help put us in a much healthier position to give to others and ultimately the rest of the world. So, I invite you to ask yourself: when was the last time you gave to yourself? What did you give and how did it make you feel?

And finally, what would you like to give to yourself?

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