"They're charging for the bread now?!!"
That was my horrified exclamation a few weeks ago while I was having lunch with two of my business buddies. We were lunching at my favorite restaurant, where I had grown accustomed to eating copious amounts of fresh, warm sourdough bread and olive oil while waiting for my food to arrive.
This time, however (and probably because of carb-hoarding customers like me!), they had made a subtle change to the menu. Innocuously printed right at the top: “Bread and oil - £2.50.”
I was indignant. Outraged. Annoyed. “Well, guess I’m not having any bread then,” I said with a huff.
It was then that one of them asked one of the most profound-yet-light questions I've ever been asked: “If you like the bread that much, just get it. Aren’t you worth £2.50?”
...And as the simple enormity of what she had asked started to register, I found myself eating words that so often come spilling out of my mouth when something displeases me: "but it’s the principle…", and I found myself realizing again (yes, definitely again) that so often my “principles” make things harder or more unpleasant than they need to be (at best), or are a convenient disguise for wanting to feel morally superior (at worst).
And I mean, come on, what principle am I appealing to here anyway? That food should be free (I’m not a communist!)? Or that things that once were free can never be charged for (of course not!). If I get value or pleasure, or both, from something then of course I can be charged for it and I should be willing to pay for it. This is basic economics, not a battle of principles.
So, yes, I caved in and let the restaurant win (that’s how it felt anyway) and ordered the not-free-but-incredibly-delicious bread. And in the end, didn’t I win too? I got fresh, warm, yummy bread in limitless quantities, enjoyed my meal all the more, and got over a stupid hang-up about paying for something that used to be free. As those Mastercard adverts would say. Bread and oil: £2.50. Life lesson learned: Priceless.
What are you being cheap about? What value or pleasure are you denying yourself by being cheap with yourself? Maybe you’re making excuses about why you can’t go to a favorite singer’s concert. Or maybe you’re trying to justify why you can’t afford to take a few days of much-needed time away from the office. Or maybe you’re just refusing to “splurge” on the good, juicy, red strawberries at the supermarket and end up buying the crunchy pale pink ones instead.
If you need it, you have my permission to stop being cheap with yourself. I am definitely NOT saying you should overindulge or live beyond your means. But please stop giving yourself the scraps. These daily messages that we send ourselves about what we’re worth or what we deserve have a real impact on our lives. If we don’t think we’re worth good strawberries, why would anyone else? If we don’t value ourselves enough to take time off to recharge, why would anyone else?
So often you get what you give. And by giving ourselves messages about what we do or don’t deserve, about what we are or aren’t worth, we let others give us the treatment that matches those messages. This isn’t just about bread or strawberries or concerts. This is about how we live our lives and the expectations we have for them.
Start expecting more. Start treating yourself better. Old habits are hard to break, and these are things we have to work on all the time (my Breadgate example happened just a few weeks ago). But I know from my own experience that when I have started to treat myself better or with more kindness – even if just in the way I judge myself internally – then others have started to do the same. Not always, of course, but more often.
Stop being cheap with yourself, and the world will be less cheap with you, too.