OK, now don’t get mad at me, but you’re probably a Prostitute.
I don’t mean that people pay you to have sex with them. I mean it in a broader, archetypal sense.
The Development of the Prostitute
We all start playing the role of the Prostitute when we are very young. We make trade-offs to secure the things we need from our caregivers. We learn to be a good little girl or boy so that our parents will love us and take care of us.
As we grow older, these trade-offs can become increasingly tragic. Like the actual street-walker who sells her body for sex, we sell our integrity, dignity, self-respect, freedom of choice, creativity, passion. We sell these things for recognition, emotional security, prestige, social position, and, of course, money.
Maybe I’m being a little dramatic. Maybe I should use “Sell Out” instead of Prostitute. The label “Prostitute” comes from that dame of the archetypes: Caroline Myss. Like all archetypes, the Prostitute is a neutral energy.
The Shadow of the Prostitute
This one happens to be named after the shadow attribute, probably because the dark side is much more recognizable. The light attribute of the Prostitute is the Guardian of Faith. Through this archetype, we learn how to count on ourselves, to rely on our capacity to navigate this world with integrity and to provide for all of our own needs.
Myss believes that four survival archetypes accompany each of us on our life’s journey: the Child, the Saboteur, the Victim, and the Prostitute.
When you find yourself in the Prostitute’s shadow energy, it is as if you’ve made a deal with the devil. You’ve made some compromise, often of your values or integrity, in exchange for security, usually material security, aka money.
When we’re not conscious of archetypes, these patterns work behind the scenes on autopilot. Often, they produce unwanted behaviors.
Selling Ourselves Out at Work
To my way of thinking, we prostitute ourselves to our jobs when we don’t really want to be there. When the only thing we get from working is money, we are selling ourselves out. We spend too much time working to not get more out of it than a paycheck.
In your workplace, do you get to show up with your full mind and creativity? Are your ideas sought, appreciated, and acted upon? Not just your business ideas, but also ideas you have about how things should be done.
Do you feel you can express yourself authentically? Can you say what’s on your mind without worrying about the ripple effects of your words? Do you have to pretend to be someone else to succeed at work? To care about things that you don’t care about?
This was one of my challenges in Corporate America. One company talked a lot about the three buckets of constituents that we all served: shareholders, customers, and employees. At the time, I had a job focused on benefiting the shareholder while minimally affecting the customer and the employee. Benefitting the shareholder just wasn’t something that I got excited about.
For me, it was much satisfying to do things for customers and employees (and, almost always, this benefitted the shareholder too.) Later in my corporate career, when my role was more oriented to employees, I became much engaged. I wasn’t just being paid; I was doing something that was worthwhile.
If you aren’t aligned with the purpose of your work, you’re selling out.
What kind of relationship do you have with your boss and other superiors? Do they just hand you assignments or do you have a hand in how you contribute? Employers that allow employees to participate in work allocation are respectful of the employees’ talents and preferences. If you don’t have a say in what you’re doing on a day to day, they are buying your silence.
Do you have untapped talent? Are there skills you think would be relevant that you don’t get to use? Why is that? Have they sought to learn about your talent (they should)? Have you told them (you should)? We were given those talents to use them. It is part of who we are. It’s why we are here. If you don’t get to express your talents, then you are misusing them.
Do you feel forced by the corporate culture to go beyond the written requirements of the job? Does your employer report to the government that you work 40 hours a week when you actually work 52? Are you bringing work with you on vacation to keep up?
When employers encroach into our ability to lead a full-throttle life outside of work, they are buying up every last ounce of your energy. It makes it hard for you to get much else done.
Your work becomes everything. Even though most us don’t love work, we make it our god. We think about it all the time, talk to our spouses about it, check email and texts at the restaurant, at the football game, in the bathroom. If you’ve given this much of yourself over to work you don’t love, you’re selling out.
Do you have values that don’t quite align with your company? Do they pressure you to give to PACs? Do you worry that your company uses its power to exploit others in some way, shape or form?
Do you like your job? Your employer? Your co-workers? Your customers?
If you don’t like your answers to the questions above, I am suggesting that you’re in soul-crushing job. The first step out, however, is to claim responsibility. You are there because you raised your hand. They said they would give you $x, and you said yes.
Maybe you already had an inkling of the trade-offs to come, or maybe you learned along the way.
But you stayed.
You probably have reasons for staying. But the way out begins with seeing that you sold yourself out.
Examples of Sell-Outs
Here are some other examples of sell-outs:
- The artist or writer who can’t find the time for her passion.
- The salaried employee afraid to strike out on his own.
- The entrepreneur who second-guesses herself and goes back to a “real job.”
- The young couple pressured into parenthood.
- The son or daughter who studies what their parents want them to.
- The recording artist who gets locked into an exploitative music contract.
- The business executive who has golden handcuffs (i.e. big financial incentives not leave the company.)
- The actor always hired because of his biceps and winning smile.
- The engineer whose employer owns all the patents.
- The spouse who forsakes their own desires for the sake of the family
- The spouse who works in a soul-crushing job to meet their partner’s expectations
- Basically, anyone who feels trapped by their compromises, believing they can’t go after their dreams because of a commitment or due to scarcity thinking.
The Guardian of Faith
We’ve had a long hard look at the Shadow aspect of the Prostitute archetype. But, as I mentioned briefly, there’s a light side too, the Guardian of Faith. She helps you see and respect your full value. She helps you to have faith in yourself, to know that you don’t have to suppress major parts of yourself in order to make a living.
She would tell you to ask for that promotion, to reconfigure your job, to put your integrity first. She wouldn’t let you pay for your kids’ college with money you had to sell your soul to get. She won’t listen to your excuses about why you can’t leave or do things differently. She would get creative and show you there’s another way forward. Start listening to her.
Let’s consider some sellouts a recent example from the world of entertainment. Some have said that myth is dead in our modern world. But I say that myth lives on in this golden age of streaming.
The Arch of the Prostitute: Gi-hun from The Squid Game
The popular Korean TV show, The Squid Game (on Netflix) introduces us to Gi-hun. He’s a down on his luck dad who looks for shortcuts to find money. This includes raiding his mom’s ATM account for gambling money.
Soon, Gi-hun finds himself sucked into a very unsavory series of contests. He puts his life on the line for the possibility of winning billions of won (millions of dollars).
Gi-hun voluntarily takes part in the game. He is the classic Prostitute, he will trade in everything, even his life, for the potential of winning a life of material security. Through poor choices, he has given away his power to the financial elite. Gi-hun has robbed the world, particularly his daughter and mother, of his gifts.
Through the course of the games, we get an inkling of what Gi-hun truly has to offer the world. We see Gi-hun’s compassion and creativity. We see he is a loyal friend.
I’m only partway through the series, but I can tell that this is a hero story. At some point, Gi-hun will come to a self-realization about his own strengths. At the beginning of the show, Gi-hun had no faith in himself, no faith in his ability to honestly earn money, so he turned to games of chance.
The cauldron of the squid games is allowing Gi-hun to get in touch with his higher personal values, his integrity, his compassion for others. I am betting that by the end of the show, Gi-hun will find the Guardian of Faith.
Have you found yours?
Do you want to end your pattern of selling out? If you’re ready to learn how to embrace the Guardian of Faith, I can show you how. Let’s chat about it. Schedule a free Discovery Session here.
Catch ya next time!
I’m Dr. Kira Swanson and I’m a Life Coach for people who dread Monday. I work with corporate misfits who feel unfulfilled in their work. Together, we tune into what they really want, find new perspectives, and summon the courage to take bold action. Whether it’s striking out on their own, landing in a new job, or thriving right where they are, I help my clients to Love Monday.
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Kira, This is so true. What a great article. I have a speech I do Never Be an Employee Certainly Never Act Like One. While we all need to be employees from time to time the worst thing is to give up our power to others and not realize we own our careers. We also need to behave and act like owners.
Hi Mike, indeed! Acting like an owner is a fabulous way to thrive while you’re employed by another. At one company I worked at, we used to say that employees who act like owners “just get it.