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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  • Jessica

    I like to treat myself to dinner on occasion – I take a good book and go by myself. I find it really relaxing, having that time to myself to eat well and just think about myself for the evening.

    • Olivia Lauren Hawk Moore

      I love this! My fancy meal gift to myself is usually when I travel. I know i’m eating alone either way, and with only one person on the check I can order the extra glass of wine I wouldn’t have ordered if I were on a date.

      • Jessica

        I started dining out alone mostly out of necessity while travelling for work, and that is when I discovered that I actually really love it! Now, when I go out for dinner alone (while in my home city), it kind of feels like even more of a treat because I could have company or eat at home but I don’t want to and I am fully indulging that.

  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    im lovin all the partnership content of late…rake it up rake it up rake it up

    • Leandra Medine

      We put an aggro amount of time thought and consideration into it, so thanks for the note!!

      • Beasliee

        I came down here to say the exact same thing. It’s really nicely done so I am never put off clicking on a sponsored article like I am on some sites. Your time is worth it!

    • Second this. Love how you’re forward that it’s sponsored and the product is featured (can’t stand the ol’ sneaky sponsorship it makes me feel manipulated).

      Also any/all of the content that I’ve seen is accompanied by such thoughtful and well written text. All the hand clapping emojis.

    • Julia Park

      love how it never feels “click-bait-y” !

    • rolaroid

      Agreed! I can hardly tell it’s sponsored/partnered content, because it fits so seamlessly with MR. Well integrated, well done.

      • Cupid Stunt

        stupid mudshark

  • I love indulging in a trip to a spa for a facial or massage. It feels so wonderful but in reality it’s not too expensive for an hour of pampering! It’s always good to have intentions behind your purchases – love that thought.

  • When I grow up, I wanna look like the model in the first picture.

    As far as the self gifting, man, I never thought of a lazy day as a gift I was giving myself. Just like buying pricey shoes (or tech or massage or whatever) is a once in a while indulgence, laziness can be too. With no guilt needed. What a concept.

    • Harling Ross

      Yes! A lazy day is my current favorite gift. So much fun and cheaper than a latte.

  • Abi Newhouse Vaughn

    I like to give myself a different kind of gift. For instance, I hate getting ready for bed. Washing my face, brushing my teeth, taking out my contacts…I hate it. I do it every night regardless, but it feels so tedious. SO. Sometimes, if I know I’m staying in for the night and I’m in the bathroom, I just wash my face. So then later, when I’m actually getting ready for bed, it’s one less thing I have to do. Greatest gift ever.

    • Harling Ross

      I like this A LOT

  • Claire

    now i get why you guys mentioned express in the last edition of “should i buy this?”…i thought that was so random im all about the treat yourself mentality, especially during the chaos of the holiday season

  • Lil

    Express has the best clothes! And for work too! Their clothes fit so well, don’t break the bank, and are pretty good quality considering the price

  • I am just loving the meditation, In today’s world meditation is must for maintaining a sound health condition. You are looking so cool here, darling. Go and cheers.

  • Caeli Tolar

    Something I try to do (which is a related practice) is thinking intentionally about treating your future self well. For example: folding laundry or filling up the tank with gas on a Sunday night for Monday morning you, buying an extra pastry on Saturday for Sunday morning you, planning out a really great meal for Wednesday work lunch you. It’s life changing!

    • Emily Michaelis

      this is great advice.

  • Jessica

    Last year, right after Christmas, I gifted myself a really beautiful, expensive silk-cotton quilt for my bed. It was way more than I typically spend on myself or for that sort of thing, but it was the best self-gift because it brings me so much comfort and joy every night I go to bed.

  • Jay

    Gifting myself?! Well… I am a bit surprised by myself this year. Maybe because I just returned from this awesome trip to Mexico, which was the best gift I gave me in a while. Maybe because it is the holidays and I love giving presents to other people (though I have to admit, I always go for the „all the little things“ presents, just that they add up…). Maybe because I had a really difficult year and am still not in the best place with myself („it‘s complicated“ – and no, please dont give me that love yourself BS).

    But all the gifts I have been treating myself to lately were so incredibly sensible: Downjackets. Tights. (It is freezing here). New running shoes. (After hip injury figured I need them). A cherry pit pillow. (My neck loves it). A foam roller. (This is the shit).

    Ok, and well… those must-reads. But books don‘t count. They are education.

    And a facial a month. Which I consider self-care. And people say this is a must as well.

    Oh, and maybe the most decadent thing ever: Time by myself. Like just me. On that walk. During yoga. Or on that Christmas market where everyone else is holding hands. And I am holding mine over the fire.

  • Olivia Lauren Hawk Moore

    Maybe not what you’re looking for, but growing up my mom always bought herself a Christmas gift… usually something that she wouldn’t have justified buying otherwise but something that she really loves. I thought it was so silly until I became an adult and realized how great it was to start caring for myself the way we care for other people… now at Christmas, I buy myself something that I would likely have never purchased otherwise, whether because its totally frivolous or it’s an investment piece I maybe wouldn’t have spent money on otherwise, or something fun like a massage, and I enjoy the fact that I spent some money on myself for fun, guilt free and without worrying that I was stealing money from the rent check. This year I bought a super nice set of sheet masks (as opposed to the 3$ ones I usually buy from the TJ Maxx checkout line) and these kick ass earrings my friend Eny made.