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The spiral growth systems blog

Why I Thought it Was Selfish but I Did It Anyway

My entire life I had been taught to look out for others first. I learned to love them before I could love myself, as if somehow my ability to be loved was rooted in them more than it was me. Counterproductive, I now know. But at the time, it made sense to allow my innate ability and desire to love and connect with others to shadow the same for myself. And though I thought it got better with the years, the truth is that as I watched the gifts I have for serving others grow and flourish, over time it became even harder to distinguish the line between “me” and “them”. Or maybe it was just that. Maybe I, myself, created a line that wasn’t really there. Maybe I began to believe in a separation that had me believing that “they” had to come first.

Whatever the cause, I started to notice over time that as my ability to serve others grew, and as my business grew along with it, I actually began to shrink. It was hard to notice at first, because the “stuff” I had accumulated around me had expanded. This left me believing that because my my overall lifestyle was now bigger and more luxurious, I must indeed have been putting myself first. I mean, if I had all the things I wanted, wasn’t I allowing myself to come first? But what was really happening was that as I expanded what I could “have”, I became harder on myself about who I was actually being. I expected more from myself in what I was giving to the world. Any sense of luxury around me automatically began to negate how much I deserved in the other realms, so that having some things I wanted meant there wasn’t space to be or do all of the things I craved, as well. I knew the “things” were only representations of the qualities I wanted to embody (freedom, love, expansion, etc)…so then how was it so easy for me to negate the embodiment of those qualities once they were completely there for me to experience? Was I not a teacher of self care amongst other things? Didn’t I often have the conversation with my clients about how “putting on your own oxygen mask first” actually served others in the end? So how was it that I found myself in a space of being so absorbed by my work that I did not know where the space for my clients ended, and where I began?

A couple of months ago, when I set out for two months of travel in South America, I had no incline just how much this was impacting me. Because I believed myself to be in expansion, I genuinely thought that my newfound ability to travel while I continued to serve others and build my business was simply another step on the elevator of expansion I saw myself riding. I thought it was selfish; but I did it anyway. I thought I was setting out to travel for me, and that my ability to serve others wouldn’t be affected by it. And boy was I wrong.

Upon embarking on my adventures I became scared (very scared) that I wouldn’t be able to serve my clients in the same way I had been. I was also doing a great job forgetting that I had a tendency to work until the wee hours of the night and push off my workouts and meditations to take care of them. Ouch. My intention to balance work and play seemed overridden at first by play being the priority. Playing so much was freeing, but also left me riddled with fear. And freedom and fear really don’t mix. My deep seated beliefs that I was selfish seemed to be popping back up in the form of “there’s no way you can put yourself first and still serve others” and “I don’t deserve it”. I was convinced that the only one receiving all that the world had to offer through my adventures was me.

But, because travel has a way of teaching you what you need to learn whether you’re present to the necessity or not, I learned my lesson. The more I fell into these lies around service and integrity being separate from play, adventure, and the pure joy that comes with being in touch with yourself, the more I got pushed into the divide. And the more I was pushed into the divide, the more I was forced to surrender into its lessons, no matter how much they sometimes hurt. In being ultimately forced by circumstance to set aside my “work” and be present only with myself, I returned to the “work” within as the primary importance of what I do to serve others anyway. I was reminded that such (supposed) selflessness would not be possible without such (again, supposed) selfishness. I learned the truth of the disparity between the two terms and they fear-riddled connotations they both carry.

Oh how silly I had been! While I was caught up in a lie to myself that taking time to experience the world put me out of integrity with serving its people, what I was really doing was learning more about the beauty the world had to offer, in order to be able to bring it to those I am meant to serve; finding a stronger sense of self that actually kept my proverbial oxygen mask in place while I was serving others; experiencing aspects of the world that brought about an awareness that I now couldn’t imagine serving others to such a capacity without. Was it actually possible that every single moment spent present to myself and the world as one impacted far more than just me? Could it have been that all of the time I spent frolicking in nature, exploring new cultures, and experiencing new things wasn’t actually selfish at all?

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