Not too long ago Aaron and I got into an unintentional disagreement over the definition of the phrase, "selling out". The phrase is loaded with negative connotation and cultural judgement and is largely misunderstood because it illustrates an archetypal role that we all experience from time to time in our lives but few of us want to cop to.
We all sell out at some point for some reason. Selling out, as I use the term, is part of our archetypal relationship to the Prostitute archetype. Writer and medical intuitive Caroline Myss states that we all have aspects of the prostitute archetype in our psyche because we all find ourselves in situations where we sacrifice our happiness for financial security or material gain. In her own words:
Notice that the term Prostitute has nothing to do with sex work, although that is one possible iteration. CEOs, lawyers, accountants, doctors and grocery store clerks can all be Prostitutes if they are simply selling themselves and/or their time, energy, intellectual or physical talents primarily for material gain with no personal spiritual or emotional benefit. Conversely one can be a sex worker and not necessarily be "selling out" if they truly enjoy it and find it spiritually uplifting (which is rare but can happen).
At first it seems quite harsh to tell someone they have sold out or that they are prostituting themselves for security or gain, because we think it denotes a lack of integrity or courage. However, I see it as a choice that most people must make, particularly as they try to manage the various pressures of responsible adulthood. Most people at some point in their lives take jobs or work because they need the money, or perform tasks because of some other financial or material payoff that seems more important at the time. How about getting married simply for the security? Whatever the case we all find ourselves in situations where we must weigh our preferences and desire against more pressing practical concerns.
Anyone with children has probably found themselves in situations where they must sacrifice their desires for more immediate practical responsibilities. So in my estimation it's not so much if we find ourselves in the Prostitute role but that we recognize when we have moved into the archetypal pattern and then decide how long we will play that role.
The high side of the Prostitute archetype is the recognition of the importance of material or financial security in the human condition. The Integrated Prostitute makes no qualms about the potential harshness of "the real world" and upholds no fantasies about a magical rescuer or unearned boons. Some of the most successful business people in the world have at some point sold out in order to make it big. In that sense it can reap fantastic benefits that can allow one the choice to never sell out again. The Integrated Prostitute also only plays the role for a short period of time to reach a more desirable and fulfilling place.
The low side of the prostitute has various disadvantages that can be spiritually and emotionally damaging. Abandoning one's spiritual or emotional fulfillment in favor of financial reward may seem trivial when one is starving or in need of money in the moment but when sustained can cause depression and hopelessness.
While it may be necessary at some point in everyone's life, many people become stuck in a relentless cycle of performing deeds they would otherwise not choose, simply for money. Some people are offered big bucks to stay entrenched in jobs or careers that are spiritually and emotionally draining but financially viable. Other Prostitutes may work for very cheap, and begin to believe that what they have to offer is not worth much but that they must stay in their situations in order to survive.
We've all sold out. I sold out my first time at 18 years old when I got a job at a grocery store bagging groceries when I absolutely hated it because I wanted the money to buy what I wanted. I sold out again when I took a management job at a well-known (but ethically questionable) retail clothing company after graduating college because I was afraid that I wouldn't get another offer and needed the paycheck. However, after two and a half soul sucking years, depression and a growing malaise about life in general I decided I had sold out enough and that no paycheck was worth the price of my spirit.
Selling yourself is seductive because at first we can become enamored with our ability to make financial or material gains based on our willingness to give other people what they want. We may even talk ourselves into believing that we are doing what we want because we believe all we needed was the money. However, for many people this doesn't last long and the lack of spiritual or emotional fulfillment doing the job gives way to frustration, martyrdom and a feeling of being trapped and disempowered.
Selling out or selling ourselves relates directly to our relationship to our self esteem. It correlates to our core beliefs about what we deserve and what we can get in life. If we think we deserve a lot of money and no happiness that's what we'll get.
Moving out of the archetype of the Prostitute requires that we recognize our decisions to "sell out" for security without judging those decisions. We must then take stock of whether we value our material security more than our spiritual health. The answer may be yes, at which case you will at the very least become a self-aware Prostitute. Taking stock of our self-esteem and what we think we're worth can be difficult because we may find that we were taught to "sell out" very early.
Perhaps our parents sold out to life-spanning careers that were unfulfilling, boring or not in alignment with their dreams in order to take care of a family. Thus we may have learned that this is what responsible adults do, and in some cases, it is. We may have been blatantly told, "do what you need to do to survive" which is a common refrain heard by many people, particularly those who grew up in lower-income households and as such has become a cultural necessity and value for many people. In times of economic crisis selling out may be one's only means of survival, and that's just the way it is.
However, selling out as a lifetime pattern indicates that we are stuck in the low side of the archetype and that in order to achieve some level happiness we must risk our material security in order to satisfy other archetypal roles we may have been denying due to our identification with the Prostitute role.
It may take some time to get to a position where you can afford not to sell out and that's okay. Don't judge yourself for the choices that are necessary at this moment in time, but maintain perspective about the true goals of your spirit and heart.
It may be that right now you have no other option. Maybe there's someone you have to take care of, or maybe you're not ready to give up the security, but at some point it may become not only necessary but imperative that you move out of the Prostitute role so that you can chase what truly fills your spirit and not just your bank account.