For most of the years of my life I have worked in retail. Starting at age six when my mom opened Dragonfly, until just last March when I closed down my own store Bricolage, I've always been quite comfortable standing behind the counter saying "Can I help you?" Sometimes I would switch it up and say "How can I help you?" or possibly "Let me know if I can help you." Regardless, I was there to help.
Help is a powerful thing. It can empower and it can enable, depending on the spirit in which it is given. Helping others can also be a distraction for those of us who need help ourselves--becoming a tool of martyrdom as opposed to selflessness. So many fine lines, so many gray areas, so many double edged swords.
Self help exists on this same slippery slope: if approached with a certain quality of intention, it can be transformative--but if used as a way to escape reality or avoid responsibility, it can keep us stuck. To me, the goal of self help is, at its heart, growth: growing out of old patterns and habits and behaviors, and into bigger, more whole, truer versions of ourselves. The goal is not to fix anything. When we treat ourselves as broken objects, there's really no way to help. When we treat ourselves as whole (scared shitless, but whole) then we can actually start doing the work.
It should come as no surprise that the work so often gets confused with work--it's the same word--but with two totally different meanings. The work is personal growth, while work is the labor that we exchange for money. All this time while I have been working, asking "can I help you?" I was secretly doing the work, asking "can you help me?"