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Kurt’s Corner – Selfless Service Requires Self

You joined the armed services for your own reasons, but once you swore the oath and stepped off the bus at boot camp, you were molded to put the mission and others first.

No matter which service you belonged to, selfless service was either in the motto or part of the core values. To be successful, the team had to be more important than any individual, especially yourself.

As active duty, you were a resource called to help the mission be successful. This required you to be available 24/7/365 because you were depended on. Anything related to self was moved to the back burner, but that was the norm since everyone else had the same commitment.

Now you’re a civilian. Whether separated or retired, your former branch, mission, and team press forward without you. As your life has changed, your idea of selfless service also needs to.

While components might be similar: family, a partner, a career, pets, the situation is different. You and those closest to you understood putting things on hold for the mission, but what now? Whether you’re in the corporate world or still looking for a new career, the civilian world doesn’t operate even remotely the same.

People in your life need you to be present, loving, and supportive. The mission has shifted from the technical skills you were trained for to intangibles like love, emotional understanding, presence, and empathy.

Now, selfless service is dependent on self. The way you think, talk, and treat yourself definitely reflects in the way you think, speak, and act toward others.

How do you talk to yourself? Are your thoughts about you critical or negative? Do you hold yourself to unrealistic expectations? Can you compliment yourself without justifying how it helps others?

Pema Chodron, an American Tibetan-Buddhist and ordained nun, said, “Selfless help – helping others without an agenda – is the result of having helped ourselves. We feel loving towards ourselves, and therefore, we feel loving towards others.”

You are your next act of service. Learn to love and accept yourself as you are. Be grateful for your strengths and challenges (as they are opportunities to grow). Be courageous and honest with yourself. The more you welcome the multitudes you contain within, the more you and your relationships will thrive.

Compliment yourself. This is literally the first and possibly most challenging step. Make the compliment about you, but not something you provide for others. Don’t even attach “I am…” to it. Think about one positive trait from the ocean of good within you. Say that word aloud, in your head, write it down, whatever works for you.

Think about it every day. Embrace it when you wake up, brush your teeth, get stuck in traffic, or wash the dishes. Stay disciplined (you served, so I know you’re great at that), and watch how this little spark of self-love naturally lights up your relationships.

Selfless service is still part of you, recognize that self is the vital component.


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