Selling Our Souls

Posted by on Jan 24, 2013 in Joy | 19 comments

Selling Our Souls

I have a great book by Caitlin Matthews called The Celtic Spirit, which takes you through the Celtic year with daily readings. It’s taken me through several years and I always notice something new each time. This morning’s entry is entitled “Selling Our Souls” and it begins with this quote:

Very early in the life of every youth there wil be…the question of how far he ought to sell his soul for the sake of his life. —John Cowper Powys

Maybe it’s my history of taking jobs that eventually feel like I’ve sold my soul to the devil in exchange for a paycheck, but it really hit me this morning that life is a series of transactions, of sales and purchases, and yet not only do we not tend to think of it that way, but we tend not to think about what we’re buying and selling.

So many of us bristle at the idea of selling ourselves—me included!—and yet we do it all the time whether we realize it or not. We sell our services in a variety of roles, and expect some sort of compensation, in whatever form we find appropriate, in return. This is obviously true in the realm of dating and relationships, but it’s also true within myriad family interactions, friendships, work situations (interviewing for a job, certainly, but also once we land in that job), activities…we buy and sell, hire and fire all the time.

Where have you sold your soul, and has it been a good investment? What do you get in return? A paycheck? A relationship? Someone who will watch geeky sci-fi with you? Someone who helps you shop? Someone who makes you laugh? The ability to travel more often? Something else? The joy of helping someone else achieve a goal (especially one s/he thought was impossible)?

it seems to me that our souls are the most precious thing we possess. That doesn’t mean we should never share them with anyone else, but it does mean, for me at least, that we should share them wisely. We’ve all been in situations, be they jobs, friendships, marriages, to name a few, where we realize we’ve agreed to invest our souls in something that’s not giving us much in return. It can be hard to walk away from those things because we either don’t want to admit that we chose poorly or feel like a bad investment might be better than none at all, but as soon as I look at those relationships through the lens of what they’re doing to my soul, I have to pause to think about the level of that impact in a different, and often far more serious, way.

It also means we can measure better the things we get in return for our investments. When I was teaching, for instance, the negatives were always outweighed by the joy of watching a student succeed even when he thought he couldn’t, or the funny things that students would say, intentionally and unintentionally. What comes back to you as a result of your willingness to invest yourself in a job or a relationship?

I chose to become a SoulCollage® facilitator, a Laughter Yoga/Wellness instructor, and a Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach for the same reasons: they all called to me with a sense that not only would this work be fun, but that by investing myself in coaching others, helping them get in touch with their intuition, or bringing joy and laughter into the world, I would gain the satisfaction of knowing that I accomplished something for someone else. I definitely wouldn’t feel like I sold my soul for a paycheck.

We are the only ones who can make decisions for ourselves, and the only ones who can judge the quality of those choices.  Try looking at the choices you make through the lens of soul investment; it might be just the tool you need to start following your own North Star.


  1. I love this idea of how we sell ourselves. Basically, it’s any time we do something that “costs” us. One of my biggest life lessons has come from selling myself. The cost was HUGE. It took me off of my own life path right when I was just getting started at adulthood and I have had to work hard to make my life my own again. Egads. I know this is seemingly a depressing story, but the fact is that I have gained strength and clarity on the journey back, strength that I would have lacked had I not made that rotten bargain. And, at that time in my life, I didn’t have the strength to make another decision. Thank you for providing me with this lens on my life today.
    Crystal recently posted..A New Heart-Led JourneyMy Profile

    • Yes—we sell ourselves all the time. And I do mean ALL the time. Not just when we see a cost. We sell parts of ourselves to our kids or pets, too, for instance, but the difference is that the return on that sale is really good for us. The trick is to try to have more of the positive-return transactions than the negative, though I do believe that, as your example shows, even the negative ones eventually have their positive result. I really think that thinking of situations that aren’t good for us as sales where we’re losing “money” rather than gaining it helps us see which ones we need to get out of and which we need to spend more time on.

  2. The lens of soul investment.

    Wow. Just wow. Thank you, Nancy. Something I will need to sit with and review for sure.

    • Thanks, Arwen. That’s pretty much how I felt when the realization hit me, too. I’m glad you’re finding it useful.

  3. Hi Nancy, I so agree. In my last job I said to a colleague one day how I felt like I was selling my soul. There was no going back. Once this realisation hits it’s a BIG deal. And as you say, its in all sphere’s of our life. I’ve just let go of a long friendship because I constantly put my heart and soul into it, and the same was never reciprocated. I could not feel authentic in something that made me feel compromised. This is the kind of soul-work that changes your life. It’s about honouring and respecting who we are, and not selling ourself cheap or short just to be seen as kind, or amenable for another.

    • Sam, I totally agree. I’ve walked away from jobs and from friendships over this, too, though I never saw it in these terms before, and it was always very painful. I think looking at it as a financial transaction will make this sort of decision easier in the future.

  4. What a great post! When you break every decision down to its’ core transactional value, you can get a clear (or at least more objective) picture of the pros and cons of all the actions we take. I love the idea of sharing our souls wisely!

    • Isn’t ti amazing how simple it becomes? I am amazed that I’d never thought of things this way before (for as money-obsessed as our culture is, that’s rather astounding to me!).

  5. I love looking at it from this perspective, the soul perspective. You’ve hit on something so profound! And I think it’s something we learn over time. If I had looked at people/situations from this perspective earlier in life, things would have been a lot easier to handle!
    Cassandra recently posted..Your Guide to a Stress-Free (& Love-filled) FebruaryMy Profile

    • I agree completely—this is a skill we should be taught early on so we’re not realizing later how much time, energy, money, etc. we wasted on something that hasn’t produced a worthy return for us.

  6. Hi Nancy! I like this post, and the discussions about ‘selling your soul’ For What? Whome? Why? It also helps me prioritize my ‘spiritual bills’ and moderating my relationships and time with others! I like to incorporate a Virtue in all my work; this post reminds me of Caring, mindfulness and Respect for self and other’s time, justice for being fair, Courage to let go, and Assertivenss in our expressions. Warmly, Delaram

    • Oooh, “spiritual bills”! I love that idea and am going to hang onto it. Thanks for sharing it, Delaram!

  7. Nancy, the last paragraph just hit me…hard. I have been going over this whole process today about second guessing what I am doing as opposed to getting a ‘real’ job. It was like the universe sent me an answer in the form of you and Amethyst today. Aho.
    Vickie recently posted..Are you sitting in STILLNESS? + a meditationMy Profile

    • Vickie, I’m so glad it resonated for you! (I’m honored to have served as the voice of the universe for you!) It was a powerful realization for me, too, and it’s so useful, so valuable. The only challenge is remembering to use it. Habits die hard and I think we all forget easily, but that lens is still there whenever we do remember it!

  8. I met Caitlynn at a Glastonbury Goddess Conference while I was living in the UK, and had a shamanic journeying session with her later that year. It was seriously, *seriously* powerful stuff!

    I think some jobs demand that we sell our soul, but some are more neutral… and in those, we could maybe keep more of ourselves if we were able to separate out what we do from who we are.

    I think that sometimes, it’s easy to have the two tangle together, but I don’t think they always have to, and for some folks, it’s perfectly OK to have what lights them up and fulfils their purpose be something outside of their job.

    Just my 0.02c ;-)


    Tanja @ Crystal Clarity recently posted..Resource (p)Review: Online Promotion for Introverts – 5-week programmeMy Profile

    • I agree, but I want to be absolutely clear that I’m most definitely NOT just talking about jobs here. I’m talking about relationships, interactions with anyone and everyone, even something as seemingly mundane as the route you take to drive to a frequent destination. Is it working for you? Are you getting at least as much out of it as you put into it? If your drive to school is annoying because of the traffic or the lights or just because it takes you through an area that is depressed and brings you down just being there…is it worth it? It might be, if it saves you time over the alternatives, for instance, but maybe not. It could be that the time saved isn’t worth what it does to your psyche.

      So yes, it’s important when thinking about jobs, but it’s also important in those little day-to-day interactions that we don’t tend to think about. It may even be more important then.

  9. Great way to look at it. 10 months ago my partner and I decided to get on a flight to Europe and to see where life takes us. We wanted to start living now and not wait until one day. The result has been more ideas, more fun business ideas and lots of joy. We don’t intend to stop travelling yet :)
    Kama recently posted..Comment on How To Choose Flowers For Valentines Day – a Tip For The Men by KamaMy Profile

  10. Awesome post, Nancy! I love how you remind people that we are always “selling” ourselves in some way. It’s like we are always thinking – so you might as well make a conscious effort about what’s going on! I also have the Celtic Spirit book, and just pulled it out again last night. :-)
    Amethyst Mahoney recently posted..Biztopia Challenge Week 1 Affliate Leader BoardMy Profile

    • Thanks, Amethyst! It had really never occurred to me that every single interaction we have is a sale, or at the very least an exchange of some sort. Once that thought hits you, everything looks different!

      Isn’t The Celtic Spirit fabulous? :)

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