The problem with being of service

Do you want to be of service?

I know I do. Being of service is one of the reasons I became a tarot reader.

And I know that a lot of you out there feel the same, whether you read tarot yourself or use it for guidance in your life.

A lot of us who are committed to spiritual growth and intuitive development are often people who also want to heal ourselves, and others.

And so it makes sense that a lot of set out to find paths that allow us to be of service.

How? There are many ways we can be of service:

Volunteer work through a charity or community centre, lending a hand to a neighbour or family member, or pursuing a career path to puts you on the front lines are just a few examples.

Before I landed on my tarot journey, I wanted to be a writer. But when I was looking into college courses, I also considered a social work program.

I ended up in journalism, feeling that it was a good way to bridge the two. Later, after I transitioned out of the media industry, I started working on non-profit as a communications professional.

But it was in the charitable sector where I really learned the downside of being of service – and how valuable it is to define your capacity when you decide to be of service to the world.

In the eight years I spent working for charitable causes, I experienced the burnout, frustration and strain that everyone warned me I would when I entered that world.

It wasn’t until I was behind the scenes that I started to understand why burnout was so prevalent in organizations that, for all intents and purposes, are here to make the world a better place.

Because you would think that if your life’s work – the mission of your daily routine – is centered around caring for someone else’s well-being, that you will be in an environment that cares for you, too.

But here’s where things went sideways: All too often, my colleagues would work overtime, spending their evenings and weekends on work emails, and pushing themselves to volunteer at every fundraiser and rally they could.

Why? Because they believed this was it took to be of service.

In a charity, it’s easy to tell yourself, “I’ll take on the extra project,” or, “I’ll volunteer to work this weekend,” or, “I’ll work late without compensation” because it was for the cause.

It can be easy to convince yourself that little to no payoff is worth it when you are in service to something else. Even if it was at the expense of your own health, happiness, and personal or family life.

Ironically, some people will even push themselves to be of service to total strangers at the expense of their most personal relationships.

Like anything else, being of service can have unwanted side effects if it’s pursued with overzealousness.

And I see the same level of burnout and disconnection affecting people in spiritual communities, personally and professionally.

My previous two posts here have talked about ego and guilt, and the importance of boundaries. Those are factors that also play a role in the choices we make on a daily basis, and are really important aspects to develop within yourself if you want to be of service.

A common question I hear from my tarot clients is, “How can I be of service to the world?”

Which is a beautiful question to explore.

But being of service to the world – no matter what that looks for you – is something that has to happen in tandem with developing strong boundaries, and identifying any guilt or people-pleasing tendencies that may trip you up.

For example: There are a lot of tarot readers out there who end up burned out because they spread themselves way too thin with client work.

Even when they try to close their books or take time off, they get another request for a reading and decide to squeeze it in, thinking, “Maybe this person really needs my help,” or, “The universe must have sent this client my way for a reason.”

I was guilty of this in the first couple years of establishing my tarot business full-time: I had no set schedule for tarot readings and made tons of exceptions.

And it often bit me in the butt: I often ended up working with clients who were not quite right for my work, and I felt tired and underappreciated for all I was giving of myself.

Being of service can sometimes quickly become confused with not having an option to say no. It can become toxic people-pleasing and can lead to resentment and stress when you start to feel pulled in too many directions at once.

When you are coming from a place of service, you can start to lose sight of your own priorities – such as rest, play, and reflection. Your life can start to go in one direction all the time: Saying yes to every request you get, taking care of everyone else, and working more than you want to.

The truth is, you can be of service on your terms.

Being of service can be a source of joy, but it doesn’t have to be your only source of joy.

You can say yes and say no, serving within a capacity that you can sustain.

You can be intentional rather than pulled at.

You can help people without giving all of yourself away.

Until next time,

Liz xo


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