THE BLOG
02/26/2016 12:29 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why It's Important to Do the Work Before You Try and Help Others

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I'm a speaker and transformational life coach. In doing so, I am approached, emailed, or messaged quite frequently from a person who would like to help others, make a difference, and give back much like I do. While I admire all of this, and fervently agree that we need more people to step up and help others to transform our society I know the work it takes to actually do so. I'm talking about the hard work, the self-work. Far too many times these same people who are attempting to help others by starting an online, nonprofit, or coaching business haven't done their inner work. They silently suffer from guilt, shame, and trauma. Their own past is buried deep in the back of the closet while they live their life in public wearing the mask. With this mask they smile brightly into the camera of their webinars, cooing sweetly about life, love, and success. We get their endless newsletters, and positive meme posts on their social media walls. But is it really all good as they claim?

I should know because a little over five years ago I was that person. I started a non-profit mentoring agency for at-risk girls in my city of Las Vegas, Nevada to give back to my community. But as I helped others get their lives on track, mine was spiraling out of control due to my secret. Years back after I was honorably discharged from the military I returned home to Memphis, Tennessee. One night while still becoming acclimated to the city I decided to take myself out for a night of dancing, only I never made it inside the nightclub.

I met two men who were parked right outside of the club sitting in their car. The driver urged me to skip the club and meet them for breakfast to become acquainted. Against better judgment I happily agreed, jumped in my car and followed them to the restaurant. When we got there we were seated and the conversation flowed. I told the driver, who I thought I had a connection with, all about how I had just arrived in Memphis, looked forward to starting college, and I was looking for a job. He listened intently, and his easy for me to open up. I left the two men to excuse myself to the bathroom. But on my way back to the table my stomach literally dropped, and I brushed off my intuition.

When I returned back to the table the driver's friend was nowhere to be found, and I instantly became nervous. My new friend asked me to sit down, I was hesitant, and that hesitation quickly turned into panic when I realized I left my purse at the table. He sensed my worry, and held up my purse in a sort of mocking gesture to insinuate that yes, I indeed fucked up by leaving my purse at that table. This time he didn't ask me to sit down; he demanded that I sit down. He scooted in so close to me I could feel his breath on the back of my neck, and the steel from the gun he had pressed on my thigh. He proceeded to tell me that I had found the new job I was looking for.

You see, I had walked into that restaurant a free woman, but I left as a sex slave. But this story isn't even about me being trafficked. It's about the trauma that I endured for months, years after surviving it. It's about how I hid my story, too afraid to tell the girls ages 12-18 that sat in front of me telling me about their vicious stories of being sex trafficked in my city of Las Vegas in my organization. This is about how I faced my demons of guilt and shame, overcame major trauma, sought therapy, energy healing, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness meditation to save my life. It's about how I stepped into my power, stood in my truth, and owned my story to use it to help others. It's how I embraced my imperfections, studied them, and flipped them into positives to save hundreds of girls and women. Finally, it's how I did the hard work of rectifying my past, to rise like a lotus flower in an extremely dirty pond.

This is about how you have to do the same thing if you want to help others. You're going to have to face the uncomfortable bullshit of your past, accept it, get past it, and finally own it. How do you do that? You get some help that's how! No one wants to sit in front of a stranger pouring their heart out about their past, but guess what it has to be done. Once you do, you'll feel better. The clinician can give you tips and tools to deal with your past trauma. You can get the help of a life coach or take it one step further and get holistic healing. This type of help will kick it into high gear with helping you learn how to use mindful meditation to quiet the constant chatter in your mind. Yoga, to bring your body and mind into alignment, finally you can work on a divine connection to gain the assistance from a higher power. You will need to practice forgiveness, which is the one thing that helped me through it all. With forgiveness, you finally take your power back, to completely heal and move forward with your life.

The point is this, how in the hell are you supposed to help somebody else if you haven't invested in, nor loved yourself enough to heal what ails you? You can't. Not successfully anyway. It's time to truly live authentically without hiding behind the mask. If you want to be successful in helping others do me a favor and invest in your own healing first.

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If this post resonated with you please sign-up on my website, toshiashaw.com. You'll receive a chapter of my upcoming novel, The Green Light of Forgiveness: A meditation on forgiveness to take total control over your life after trauma, tips, tools, and techniques to help you live your best life.

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Need help? In the U.S., call 1-888-373-7888 for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.