Self-help for the sake of only helping yourself is selfish. Self-help that makes you a better person so that you can also help others is self-service. A worthwhile pursuit.
My story is such a cliché. After working my ass off for years in fashion and lifestyle marketing and several failed relationships, I completely burned out and broke down at 33 years old. My pallor was grey, and I was skin and bones. It was not attractive. One of the founders of the company I had been working for gave me two books: The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and Peace is Every Step. For years, he would come into my office and force me to stop working for an hour just to talk and be present. It totally freaked me out, and my anxiety would spike with each passing minute as I thought about all of the work I was supposed to be doing.
After an incredibly messy end to that job and an entire month off before starting my new one, I read those books and felt as though someone had shown me a new world. It kicked off what I have lovingly referred to as my first “self help bender.” I read anything and everything I could by Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hanh and Deepak Chopra, to name a few. I even found this article by Martha Beck, someone I credit with helping me escape marrying the wrong man and helping me discern what the right one would even be like.
The thing is that I was a selective reader. I absorbed everything about how to help myself and ignored everything about how to be of service to others. When I found myself still searching for meaning and happiness after reading more books than I’m willing to count, I learned that none of it is worth a damn if I don’t use it to help others. This became perfectly clear when I had my kids. It was the first time I had really been selfless, and it’s the reason why so many people will tell you that being a parent is the most rewarding, if not exhausting, part of their life.
A busy schedule is no excuse here. Being of service doesn’t have to be a huge production or major use of your time; it simply has to be done with sincerity and compassion. When you see someone in a wheelchair, hold the door open for him or her. If you see a pregnant woman carrying groceries to her car, ask if you can carry them for her. If your coworker is buried with a last minute project your boss threw on her desk, offer to proof read her work or do some research for her. The more you practice being of service with little things, the more your heart will long to do so with big things like committing to volunteer for a charity or visiting your elderly family member more often.
Help yourself by being of service to others today and notice how much happier and more at peace you feel.