You Can't Pour Out What You Don't Have

An Empty Cup Analogy (Self Care)


As leaders and people in general, we sometimes neglect our own needs and wants. It is important to practice self-care and ensure that we are good stewards of our bodies before leading or interacting with others. This is something I wish someone would have said to me before now, so I'm going to tell it to you, so you know better and can do better too. A while ago, I watched a sermon that spoke about relationships and gave this great illustration about a cup with substance in it. Today, I decided to talk about the cups we have in our lives and how they affect our progress, relationships, and growth in general.


And suppose you want a detailed version of this. We also have an episode on the podcast that looks at how the different water levels in the cup can affect how we lead and the quality of work we produce; we briefly mentioned how this can contribute to burnout and discusses ways to minimize the chances of it happening.

Let's Imagine...

I want you to imagine coming from a very long run or coming from the gym and feeling super thirsty. Think about how you know that you have that jug of water you left in the fridge to chill. Now imagine that you drink from this one jug of water every time you go out to exercise. And let us assume that you keep forgetting to add more water to this jug, but you still keep drinking from it. What happens after a while? The water runs out, right?


Now imagine a friend of yours comes to your house and asks to drink water from this jug as well. Now there are two of you drinking from this same jug, but no one replaces the water. What happens after a while? You run out of water, and this time at a faster rate because two people are drinking from the jug now.


Walk with me for a second. You are the jug of water.


We, as people, are continually pouring ourselves out into things and people in our lives. This could be our relationships, work, business, family, school, social media, and hobbies. But like the jug mentioned above, there is a need for that jug to continuously be replenished so that we have enough water to keep ourselves filled and so that the people in our lives can have water to drink when they need it too.


When we do not take the time to replenish ourselves, we can become dry, and this can manifest itself in so many different ways. I mean, it's simple math. If you have and keep taking away but not adding, you get to a point where you are at zero, an empty cup.

Effects of Pouring out of an Empty Cup.

Full transparency: I have been feeling extremely burnt-out (in a state of mental, physical, or emotional exhaustion due to ongoing stress or frustration—with no time to relax and recharge) the last couple of weeks, and I have been trying to be more intentional about listening to what my body and mind needs before things get to a point where I need external help. In this quest to know my triggers better and just be more intuitive, I wanted to figure out why I felt so out of it because it wasn't just affecting my business or work. It was affecting my family, friendships, and just day-to-day life in general. I realized, and probably why I even decided to write this post today, I was pouring so much out of myself into everything but not taking time to replenish the source. I realized you couldn't pour out of an empty cup. And the more you try and pour out of this vessel, the more you are damaging the container in the process, and this can have some devastating effects on us as people.


For me, it started as feeling slightly uninspired and then developed to just a lack of motivation to do things. I started noticing that I had begun to alienate myself from my friends and family, not because I didn't want to spend time with them but because the thought of having to interact with them felt so overwhelming. Physically, I started having more headaches, and I constantly felt like I had a tummy ache. I felt like I was beginning to fall into a rut, a place of immense laziness that can be stretched out over a prolonged period. And at the time, it started showing in the quality of work I was producing both a school and work.


Now I will say this is how it manifested for me, but it can look different for everyone, so do your research or consult a professional if you feel connected with any of these things.

Self Care.

Self Care is a form of self preservation and an essential practice of maintaining and replenishing our cups and can look like different things in different situations. Here are some self-care tips I have been using to ensure that I remain full and stop feeling burnt out.


Seek Support.

Communicating how you feel to someone can seem really scary at times, but I promise you will feel so much better once you have. Getting Support from the community you have around you could be a great first step; be it your friends and family, co-workers, a therapist or anyone you can trust. Allow them to support you in the way you need them to.


Set boundaries.

Setting good and healthy boundaries was a big one for me. I used the "I VALUE… SO I NEED… AND WILL HONOR BY…" It worked well for me. The key thing to remember is to define the desires boundary, say what you need without over-explaining and say why it is important.


Remember your feelings are important and valid.




Do something you love.