Man Repeller: A Meditation on the Art of Self Giving

Originally published on Written by Harling Ross. Photo by Maggie Shannon.

I vividly remember the first time I bought myself something with my own money.

I was seven years old, and I had managed to accumulate a nice little nest egg that amounted to the grand sum of $20, likely a combination of tooth fairy money, the five-dollar bill I found in the back of a taxi cab and an impressive collection of dimes and pennies procured from the underbellies of couch cushions.

After thinking long and hard about how I would spend my fortune, I finally decided on something that felt equal parts practical and enjoyable: candy. Lots of it.


Consuming three packs of sour watermelons in one sitting is not something I can personally or professionally recommend after doing so myself on this occasion, but despite feeling physically ill, I also felt emotionally euphoric. Such is the mind-altering power of buying something for yourself with the added ingredient of slow-built intention.

We spend money on ourselves almost every day, whether on a cup of coffee, an electricity bill or a T-shirt we don’t love but feel like buying anyway, just in case, but that kind of spending doesn’t feel like much, does it? It doesn’t garner the same sense of delight as seeking something out thoughtfully and purchasing it with specific, premeditated purpose. Therein lies the magic behind what is often referred to as “self-gifting.”

Same activity, different mentality.


Having parsed out this distinction, I’ve been conducting a bit of a thought experiment: I’m making a conscious effort to try and view all the myriad things I bestow upon myself, from the tangible (microwaveable popcorn, a new “going out” top, hand cream) to the not-so-tangible (permission to spend an entire Saturday in bed watching TV without feeling one iota of productivity-driven guilt), under the lens of self-gifting.

Not to sound totally cheesy, but I’m essentially trying to introduce more mindfulness into my understanding of what brings me joy — the same mindfulness I might bring to a gift-giving, but extended to the panoply of things I do for myself every day. Sometimes it’s gifting myself a fuzzy white shawl coat that I impulse-buy on a whim because it’s 50% off, other times it’s hanging out with my mom on a Sunday night and doing nothing. Maybe it’s getting all dressed up in my best freakum outfit and doing something outside my comfort zone. It’s the gift of being active rather than passive.


I’ve heard it so many times before — it’s the thought that counts — but so rarely apply the sentiment to my own life, my own decisions. So, in the thick of the holiday season when the whole point of giving (what is it if not the pleasure of showing someone love, yourself included?) can get lost, this calibration has been more refreshing than a bowl of frozen eggnog eaten with a spoon (try it — trust me).

On that note, tell me what you’re gifting yourself this holiday season, whether material or emotional. After styling the outfits that accompany this self-gifting meditation, I’ve got my eye on allllll of Express’s sparkly belts and the joy I’d spread while wearing one.