Lately I’ve been noticing a pattern in my life which revolves around this idea of helping others.
I’ve always wanted to be helpful in some way shape or form. I can remember wanting to volunteer for the local food bank when I was 11, or just wanting to help my mom out (when she would let me), or simply wanting to help out a friend.
However, growing up I learned that being who I am was simply not enough. From experiencing bullying for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time and being different, I quickly learned that perhaps I needed to offer something up to prove that I was worth knowing, worth accepting, worth loving. I needed to offer myself or rather ‘my services’ in order to gain acceptance from people. I went from being a ‘helpful’ being to that of being the ‘helper’ or ‘rescuer’.
Soon, being able to be counted on meant more to me than just being my own self. I needed that approval, that sense of ‘being a good girl’. It gave my life purpose, meaning, and worse still – value.
I noticed that anytime I would fall short, whether it was not honouring the commitments I made, having to say ‘no’ to people, or simply falling short of another’s expectations of me, my self esteem would take a major hit. I would be so hard on myself, often calling myself a failure, unreliable, and even going so far as to say that I was unworthy of receiving love.
I quickly forgot about my own self worth. My value was inherently wrapped up in being the helper.
I could easily tell that it was still playing a predominant role in my life when I was able to help out a colleague of mine who was stuck in a bind. She was incredibly grateful and raved about me helping her to another colleague.
I remembered feeling all warm and fuzzy; the thoughts running through my head were – wow, I am important. I am worthy, I am valuable.
I caught myself afterwards and realized this really didn’t feel right.
Am I not worthy simply because I exist? Why is it that when I help someone, it only affirms my worth to me? Can’t I feel worthy every single day just because I am alive and I am me?
I thought about this pattern that I had created out of very low self esteem and self worth. I attached a label to myself. I told myself at a very young age that I was going to be ‘the helper’. If people weren’t going to like me for me, then at least they could like me because I am ‘useful’.
And by the law of attraction, it became so.
I also realized why I was so resentful of others; in creating this scenario, not only did I attract more and more people that needed help, but that once that help was provided my role in their life was over. Or, it would yield the opposite, I would become the other person’s ‘rescuer’.
I realize now having experienced this that this isn’t what is called being ‘of service’. Truly being of service is receiving the gift of giving. Giving in and of itself is beautiful. There isn’t this need of having something returned to you in kind. One gives simply because it feels good to give. Another way of putting it is, being a ‘helpful’ person is one who helps others in need openly and willingly without expecting anything in return.
A ‘helper’ or ‘rescuer’ as I found out, will often help in order to receive acceptance and love in return. They often aren’t aware of the fact that they do this; they truly believe that they are doing the right thing and being ‘helpful’ I mean how is that causing any harm right? The problem is this truly isn’t an act of service, because one is seeking something in return, even if one isn’t aware of it. The acceptance, the love, affirms to one of their inherent value. Thus perpetuating a vicious cycle of need and lack. The need for love and acceptance due to the lack of feeling one’s inherent value.
I was struggling with this new perspective because if I reject being a ‘helper’ then…
Who am I?
Who am I without jumping to someone’s rescue? Who am I if I say no to someone? Who am I if I’m not available for such and such commitment? Who I am to take care of myself instead of fulfilling someone else’s expectations of me?
As I typed those words, I could feel flutters in my heart, as if letting go of an old sweater that acted like a shield of armour. But I know that it is necessary because I would rather be known as myself who is helpful whenever possible, rather than being attached to the label of ‘helper’.
Even the energies around both words feel different. When I close my eyes and say the phrase “I am helpful”, I feel a sense of peace, warmth and openness. When I close my eyes and say the phrase” I am the helper”, my heart closes, and I feel a tightening in my chest. It’s almost as if that label only defines me as such, and all of a sudden myself, as a person, gets completely lost.
So that leaves me with a few choices: 1) I could continue on, servicing my ego, believing a lie that I am not worthy unless I am someone’s helper or 2) I could service my soul, be who I am with courage and know that I am a person who is always willing to help another to the best of my ability, but if I’m not able, I am still valuable.
I choose the latter; I’m grateful to know what the difference is between true service vs servicing one’s ego to fill an illusional void.