I wasn’t entirely spiritual in my early 20s.
I started meditating after a terrible breakup, hoping it would heal me.
And it did. I learned more about the destructive thoughts that had permeated my mind and realized that there was more to life than parties, shopping, money, and good sex. I got over my ex, but I didn’t get over how liberated I felt after every meditation session.
Reading Osho, Deepak Chopra, and Eckhart Tolle was no longer enough; I was hungry for more knowledge. And so I spent the next few years traveling to India and Nepal where I studied Buddhism, did Vipassana, took breathwork courses, and lived closely with Buddhist monks.
I was a new person—a better one. I opened up my heart and turned into someone who was compassionate, kind, empathetic, and selfless.
However, I also turned into a people pleaser—and I didn’t know it…until now.
For someone like me who was new to the idea of kindness, selflessness, impermanence, and interdependence, the world of spirituality can be enticing.
Personally, I was excited to put everything I had learned into practice—how to be kind to others, how to forgive, how to let go of the past. I wanted to be the person who made everybody happy and satisfied.
And so I started saying yes to plans when I really wanted to stay home. I hung out with ex-lovers because “I let go of the past.” I met up with my ex-boyfriend whom I “thought” I had forgiven. Although I knew my friend was using me, I didn’t do anything about it because I was practicing acceptance. I took on more work so I wouldn’t upset my clients. I spent years solving other people’s problems because I felt that their happiness was my responsibility. I wanted to “fix” people who didn’t want to be fixed—or saved. I was emotionally abused because I couldn’t speak up for myself.
After all, I was trying to build good karma, and maybe I did, but it took me almost a decade to realize that being spiritual doesn’t mean being a people pleaser.
I was being kind to everyone but me. I was so immersed in everybody’s needs that I had forgotten about my own. Connection with the world means absolutely nothing if we’re disconnected from ourselves.
For years, I had a massive amount of love inside of me that I didn’t even know existed. Spirituality opened up that space and put me in touch with the innate goodness and love within me. But since I didn’t know how to accept myself, I poured all that love into other people’s empty cups…in the name of spirituality.
I know I might be late to the party, but I’ve just realized that being spiritual starts with me. I need to accept my raw self—flaws and all—so I can genuinely accept others’. I need to befriend who I am and what I am. I need to forgive myself, say yes to myself, be gentle with myself, and honor my own needs. Because if I don’t, my kindness toward others will always be incomplete. I can’t serve others from an empty place. To fill other people’s cups, mine needs to be full first. This is spirituality.
If you’re unconditionally serving others while rejecting your own needs, please know that you’re not being spiritual. “You” are “others” too. So if you’re constantly denying yourself and thinking that others matter more than you do, understand that it is not a spiritual behavior; it’s trauma at work.
The fact is I’m still kind. I’m still empathetic, loving, compassionate, and thoughtful. But I’m all this because I want to, because I can genuinely give to others without neglecting myself—not because I’m afraid of what others might feel or think.
Fear doesn’t equal spirituality; genuine love does.