Most of my life, I’ve had one main desire. To help children. This started out in childhood, with my youngest brother who has autism, and I decided I would dedicate my life to children with disabilities.
Then I went to college and learned about poverty and systemic racism, so I decided I would dedicate my life to anti-racism and eradicating poverty for children so that they have equal opportunities.
Then I read the book “A Long Way Home”, which made a significant impact on me. It’s a memoir about a child soldier in Sierra Leone in West Africa. And then I decided I would dedicate my life to ending child soldiering and child trafficking and off I went to law school.
After law school, an award in civil-human rights, and three positions working in Africa – one with the United Nations, one with a local NGO, and one in human research, I realized that every time I went to Africa, they were teaching me, I didn’t bring much with me except for a lack of full understanding of their culture, and I was never going to be that much help (ie. white savior complex shattered).
And my dreams of adopting from Africa came to a screeching halt when I read stories of children being kidnapped from their families to be “sold” to westerners, even though they still had a living, caring, loving family of their own that wanted them back.
So, I came back home very disillusioned with my life, and tried to figure out where I fit in. If I can’t help the most violated, vulnerable populations in our world, who could I help closer to home?
I then became incredibly passionate about raising awareness of children in foster care, how the system is broken, and my new dedication was to become a foster parent. I also began to raise awareness of the child trafficking that occurs throughout the US.
I was a relentless high achiever, passionate about helping the populations of children in the most dire need of help.
But no matter how hard I tried, I could never actually feel fulfilled or accomplished. I couldn’t find a job in these fields, though I applied for years. Of course, I graduated law school just four years after the financial crisis, so most non-profits and legal aid jobs were still stuck in hiring freezes, but it was more than that.
I would volunteer to be a mentor to foster children at places whose systems would go down for months and I wouldn’t receive a single placement.
I began the training process for becoming a foster parent and immediately after, split up with my fiance at the time and had to move into a very small apartment without any room for children.
I fully, wholeheartedly, believe that everything happens as a reflection of our internal state. I was in full integrity on the surface in my desires and my bleeding heart. But I was unaware of what was truly happening deep in my subconscious.
What I have now learned is that my childhood was more traumatic than I had ever truly realized. I had been living with a lot of resentment that I didn’t have the type of upbringing and family relationships that many others do, but I hadn’t fully owned the trauma I had experienced either.
And the part of me that deeply wanted to save the children of the world, really was trying to save me – the child within myself that had experienced my own trauma.
Which is why I never got the jobs and I never was able to be a mentor or a foster parent, because I was projecting out my own internal lack of resolution on childhood trauma.
And once I began processing and resolving that inner turmoil, my desire to save the children of the world dissipated.
For a while, because helping people was all I ever knew, I transferred my desire to save the children to a desire to help women. At least I could help women who had experienced similar life journeys as me and impact the world in this way, right?
And still, I struggled to find achievement and fulfillment there. Because I was still so focused on saving the world, while really projecting out my own internal lack of wholeness.
I want to clarify that not everyone who wants to help people or save the world is projecting out their own inner turmoil. But it certainly was the case for me.
Some people, after making this realization, do the inner work of processing, resolving, integrating their traumas and fully meeting their own needs, and then realize that yes, their calling is to serve others, that is where they find fulfillment and that’s beautiful.
But I want to share another possibility.
After feeling lost on my calling, I started looking at personality system after personality system, like western astrology, vedic astrology, human design, gene keys, enneagram, destiny cards, numerology, etc.
And throughout, I kept hearing the same theme – that I am actually meant to be focused on me – on knowing myself, on being brave, on expressing my truth, and on fully embracing my creative self.
Of course, this can be inspiring to others, which is a way of helping others, but helping others is not the primary focus – I am meant to be my own primary focus.
This has been such a hard truth for me to grapple with. Especially surrounded by beautiful, spiritual, people who continuously say that their life purpose is to help people. And beliefs that we’re either here to help people, or we’re selfish.
There is so much shame around a life lived for oneself. And maybe that’s exactly what I’m here to talk about. And oof, is it a sticky subject.
Because there is so much more to the perceived dichotomy of serving others vs. serving oneself. It’s not simply about choosing to be generous or greedy. The shame and stigma around serving oneself stems from our lack of understanding of the different harmonious vs. corrupted aspects of serving oneself.
The corrupted aspects of serving oneself looks like taking from others for our own benefit, it looks like striving for power over others in order to feel accomplishment, it looks like greed and distrust and manipulation.
All of these aspects stem from a place of fear, in not knowing that we are whole and loved and worthy. Once we’ve resolved our inner turmoil and come to know our own wholeness and our own worthiness, then serving oneself no longer has a negative impact on others.
Serving oneself in taking care of our own needs is actually quite responsible in that it doesn’t place the burden on someone else to meet our needs.
Serving oneself in getting to know ourselves fully is actually self-accountable in that we can take ownership of our own emotions without placing the burden on someone else to codependently manage our emotions for us.
Serving oneself in pursuing our desires is actually showing immense gratitude for this physical life we’ve been given, learning how to live from the soul and from the heart in a way that is gracious and fulfilling.
And this is the most important part. When we are in the business of serving ourselves in this way, we inadvertently have a beautifully positive impact on the people around us.
Because this is the kicker – we are actually always helping people.
We are always having an impact on people. We are an interdependent species, so when we have a conversation with someone, when we pass someone on the street, when we purchase something from someone, when we share a story with someone – we are impacting people.
And the more we focus on getting to know ourselves fully, on caring for ourselves, on pursuing our deepest soul’s desires and radically expressing our inner truth, the more our impact actually helps people, even when we don’t intend to.
The desires placed on our heart and on our soul were placed there on purpose. We came here to experience a physical life. When we return to wherever our souls go, we will no longer be able to do physical life things in this body.
So, let’s show immense gratitude for this life we’ve been given, and be brave with our life, even if it’s just for ourselves. 😉