In Partnership With
A Meditation on the Art of Self-Giving

In partnership with Express

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 $5 bill I found in the back of a taxicab 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, 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.

Express Metallic Maxi Dress and Sequin Cami styled with ASOS tights, Vince Comuto shoes, Roxanne Assoulin necklace and Lizzie Fortunato earrings

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 out something 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 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.

Express Metallic Maxi DressSequin Cami and Wool Cocoon Coat styled with Roxanne Assoulin necklace and Lizzie Fortunato earrings

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 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’ sparkly belts and the joy I’d spread while wearing one.

Express Three Button Blazer, Plaid Ankle Pant, Chainmail Halter Top and Double O Ring Belt styled with Mango earrings and Roxanne Assoulin bracelets

Photos by Maggie Shannon. Creative Direction by Emily Zirimis. Photographed at the Gramercy Park Hotel

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