Service as the Secret to Self-esteem: 30 Days of Service

"Whether you are a CEO or a secretary, self-employed or unemployed, rich or poor, a 20-something or a 60-something, a master at the task or a first-timer, none of those labels matter when you are serving. I like to think of service as a great equalizer."
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In early 2012 Brad Jamison left Disney/ABC Television where he led the company's comprehensive corporate initiative efforts including: programming for social outreach, cause-related marketing, public service campaigns and events, and philanthropic giving. He left not to see the world, but to serve it. In fact he set out to do 30 days of service with 30 organizations and that has become a calling for him.

MG: You left your position at Disney/ABC Television in early 2012 and shortly thereafter executed Thirty Days of Service -- 30 service projects with 30 organizations in 30 days. What did you find to be the most surprising outcome of your experience?

BJ: First, I must point out that it's really difficult to pinpoint just one of the many personal benefits of serving others. That said, one of the greatest and certainly most surprising results of serving for 30 days was the impact on my self-esteem. Like many others, my position in the corporate world had taken its toll and, unfortunately, a role I once loved was simply no longer a good fit for me. Once I removed myself from that environment, I realized my views of myself and my worth -- or my self-esteem -- were rather negative, which was a bit of a shock.

However, as I progressed through my month of serving others, my self-image began to transform. My feelings of doubt and insecurity were being replaced with feelings of being valued, needed and respected. I was reminded of just how much I have to offer others. It was truly a transformative process in terms of my self-esteem, something I initially didn't realize I needed and certainly never anticipated. I feel as if I discovered a secret path to positive self-esteem.

MG: What is it about serving others that benefits one's self-esteem?

BJ: It's actually really basic if you think about it. Our feelings of self-esteem are a reflection of how we feel about ourselves, essentially how worthy or valuable we feel. And, we know that doing good things fills us with positive feelings about ourselves. Thus, the more good we do, be it for another person, a cause or an organization, the more fulfilled and happy we are, which equates directly to a higher level of self-esteem.

Something worth pointing out is that the good feelings associated with service don't necessarily have anything to do with the task at hand or how proficient someone is at the task. The reward is in the simple act of doing something good for someone else. At the end of the day, I would argue that serving others is the greatest self-esteem builder around. And, the best news is that everyone can serve.

MG: While you said that it's not about the task itself or being good at doing something, are there certain types of service projects you think lend themselves more to helping develop positive self-esteem?

BJ: Yes, but I think it needs to be determined on an individual-by-individual basis, however, any act of service will bring with it benefits to self-esteem. For me, nothing fills me up more than providing a meal to someone in need or seeing the reaction of a kid I have helped. That said, it's much more about one's approach to service than it is about the specific task. Here are three of my tips that will help anyone get the most out of any service project.

  1. Be present -- do your best to forget all you have going on in your life and focus on your service. Don't worry about the calls you need to return, what you're having for dinner, why you didn't get that promotion or whatever else is churning in your mind. Being present also means turning off those electronic devices. I know how hard these things are, but you can do it and will be rewarded.

  • Check your ego. In other words remember, "It's not about you!" Whether you are a CEO or a secretary, self-employed or unemployed, rich or poor, a 20-something or a 60-something, a master at the task or a first-timer, none of those labels matter when you are serving. I like to think of service as a great equalizer -- it puts all of us on a level playing field and that alone will impact your self-esteem.
  • Do what's asked: A great builder of self-esteem is trying something new. So, approach service with an open mind and do whatever is asked of you, even when it takes you out of your comfort zone (remember, it's not about you). And, know that every act of service contributes to the greater good, therefore no task is too great or too small.
  • MG: Who can benefit from serving others?

    BJ: Absolutely everyone! There is a service opportunity that's right for everyone and everyone can experience the life-changing benefits of service. That said, when thinking of the importance of developing and maintaining healthy self-esteem, I think as a nation we have an opportunity, if not obligation, to engage our young people in service. Perhaps we could teach a new Golden Rule, do unto others who need it most.

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