Create Meaning By Helping Others (Without Doing it for Validation)

Helping Hand

“If you light a lamp for someone else it will also brighten your path.” ~Buddha

Why are you here on this earth? What is your purpose? What are you supposed to be doing with your life? These deep questions burn in all of us. Our souls’ desire is to lead fulfilling lives that have meaning.

My life’s journey has always been linked to helping other people; I just never saw it as serving them. As I have grown to know myself, I have discovered that I have this huge heart that wants the best for myself and for others. I now live to serve, and this brings me great fulfillment.

The Difference Between Seeking Validation and Serving

It wasn’t always easy for me. I spent a great deal of my life questioning why I was here and what my life was all about. I had been through so much pain and had suffered at the hands of others. I couldn’t understand it all until I took a stand. Enough was enough. I needed to be different.

Little did I know that being different meant discovering myself and not simply changing my circumstances.

I was always a helpful person, but it was about seeking validation for what I did, not about the difference I could make in others’ lives when coming from a place of inner strength.

I started learning about who I was and why I was behaving the way I did. I would often be so angry with myself for doing things for other people that I really didn’t want to do.

I was angry that I didn’t say no when I really wanted to. I was seeking validation in these moments and wanting to be liked. I realized that I could say no, and that I’d been saying no to the wrong person. I needed to start saying yes to me, and that meant no to others.

I also wanted to be sure that I wasn’t being mean and hurtful to others by saying no to certain requests, and so I started asking them. I realized quickly that true friends are the ones who tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.

I wanted more of that in my life, and I knew if I were open and honest with others in this same way, I would help them discover something great about themselves. This was true servitude, and it came from a more empowered place.

The focus was on serving them and not seeking validation for myself.

The more I gave to myself, the more I was able to give to others, and the more I then received.

When we give, we always receive.

Why Serve Others

As I discovered how beautiful I was, I learned to give away to others from a place of inner strength. I could now give curiosity and compassion instead of frustration. I could listen and be present to people and give them respect. I could appreciate people for who they were, not the behaviors they displayed.

I started helping people gain insights into their own lives and the power they had to create and change them.

They started finding fulfillment and meaning for themselves, and this impacted their relationships. The sense of fulfillment this gave me showed me I was living my life on purpose.

Serving others can create this same joy and meaning for you.

How I Serve Others – Pain vs. Suffering

One way I serve people is by creating awareness about the difference between pain and suffering and helping them let go of what they need to release.

Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.

I remember my first love going overseas for a year after she had completed her studies. I felt abandoned, and the pain I experienced felt devastating. Abandonment seemed to be the story of my life.

She was still young and needed to experience the world. She met new people and started going out. I knew she loved me and still I was worried for us. Then the worst thing that could have happened hit me like a brick in the chest: She met someone else.

I still remember the phone call. I was standing in the kitchen and I was so excited, as I had decided to put my studies on hold and had committed to going over to see her. Her words were cold: “Don’t come over; I've met someone else.” I was broken.

I spent so many years suffering from that blow. The pain of the breakup was inevitable. The revisiting of the moment in my mind was suffering.

I had a choice, and I chose to wallow in this pain. I spent hours thinking what I could have done differently. I did not see myself as good enough, and so I thought it had to be my fault.

I am now in a place where I realize that suffering is optional, and so I serve others by sharing this. Living in each moment and being present to the beauty that shows up is something we all have the power to do. We just have to choose it.

Some Ways You Can Serve Others

Create awareness for them about how beautiful they are. 

We come into this world with infinite potential and then become conditioned to live to society’s expectations. This is the way it is, and yet we have the potential to change it.

We can have such doubt about ourselves. Am I good enough for this relationship? Will my writing stimulate people? Will I fit in with this new group? Society may limit our potential, but these are self-imposed doubts.

Serve people by reminding them of their potential. Remind them that they can choose self-doubt or self-belief. When we believe in ourselves, we show up differently in the world.

Get people to be curious about their lives.

Challenge people when they are closed off to other interests. Help them see the value in exploring the riches life has to offer. Be curious for them about what life can be and let them pick up on that.

Share the passion your talent brings.

We all have special talents that make this world a richer place. Serve people by showing them how beautiful life can be when you live passionately exploring it with your talents. This may be in writing, painting, singing, or any area of life.

Believe in yourself to show others its possible.

You can achieve almost anything you want if you believe in yourself and you put your heart and mind to it. This level of self-belief allows you to know that you will be okay, no matter what happens.

Serving people is easy when we know who we are and what we are about.

I believe our true purpose in life is to give our lives away to others, and that we receive happiness, fulfillment, and meaning in return.

Photo by exodus international

About Stephen Light

Stephen loves people and sees them for their potential, not the behaviors they display. His purpose is to connect, share, serve, and grow. He sees his life as a journey and loves that he can make a difference in people’s lives. Visit him at, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

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  • I love your points about the difference between ‘pain and suffering’. They ring so true to me. Thanks for this post. It reminds me a lot of a book I recently read by a psychotherapist stuck in a Nazi concentration camp … who still managed to find his meaning. I’d recommend it, the books called ‘Man’s search for meaning’.

  • Neslyn

    To sum up it all, it will result into one word: “COMPASSION”… Strong mind and a heart to serve people are prerequisite to attain this so called “compassion”.


  • Hilighting “they can choose self-doubt or self-belief” and the differences of the two was nice. The former is so easy while the latter can be difficult to practice for those of us who are conditioned…whether by nature or nurture…to live in the former mindset.

  • Kim

    There is a difference between pain and suffering. I have been experiencing the pain of an almost 5 year estrangement of my first born son. For the first several years I was suffering, now with the wisdom that comes with time, I have put that suffering away. I won’t bore you with the details, but there were and are still lessons to be learned from this. Several epiphanies have given me some clarity in this situation. It doesn’t mean that the pain is not still with me, I have just chosen not to suffer. Your article today has affirmed my choice. Thank you.

  • lv2terp

    BEAUTIFUL post!!! Thank you for sharing your experience, and wisdom! 🙂

  • dennis

    thank you, thank you, thank you… i’m with you and totally feel this. Today, i made a decision and surrender.

  • Liz Hanzi

    Wonderfully written, Stephen. Thank you.

  • So true! When we serve out of a desire to be liked and recognized for our efforts, it isn’t really service, it’s manipulation. But how many of us have been raised in just this way – we do for others so they will be indebted to us? It is freeing to do for others just because you want to!

  • Shakthi

    I always do this-Say ‘Yes’ even if I am not really interested in doing it. This article has made my mind clear. Thanks a lot.

  • Lovely post thank you, I share many of these experiences and learnings xx

  • Graham Fraser

    You say near the start of this essay that your. “purpose has always been linked to helping other people.”

    Without discussing the benefits you and/or they receive – pointless distraction to me as I can’t get that far in discovering a purpose for myself.

    Why is it your purpose? How are you sure? If self-imposed, how do you find any value in it? If externally imposed, how do you not resent?

    Why are you here to help others? If it wasn’t for the nature of existence they wouldn’t need help in the first place. So to my perfectionist monkey-mind the only rational, worthwhile purpose would be to alter – or end – the very fabric of existence.

    Going with the flow; being just one more cog in a pointless, universe-machine…. even a cog who helps other cogs…. is just one more part of the pointlessness. Even if Buddhist thought ends up perfectly exemplified in some future humanity, where every mind has reached “enlightenment” what was the point, what was worth the thousands of years of pain in the first place? If it was Nirvana from which we sprung, what screwy reasoning says there is any point leaving just to fight our way back? We chose to forget so we could learn to remember holds no logic for me.

    Again: what would be the point?

    Someone please help me get past, around, over, or through this.

  • kabog


  • Decolda

    “Believe what you want to, long as it doe’s not harm anyone else Physically, Mentally or Emotionally”

  • just courious

    can a buddhist actually physically help someone. say by giving them food

  • Andrew C. Jabsen

    I think you’re falling into the “loop logic” i was stuck in for a long time. What is the point? That’s where it falls onto you to decide. There is no universal answer. Once you have gained acceptance over that and pulled out your deepest, truest, most personal answer, then you can get out of the loop. If we are born to die, what is the point? The end being the beginning, small is big, its all a hoolahoop and your train will get stuck riding the same circular path over and over if you allow it to. Its good to help others because its good to help others BECAUSE its good to help others.

  • Hello Stephen! whenever we talk about religion (Dharm) its one meaning is spirituality and other meaning is to serve the mankind irrespective of their caste, creed, sex or color. I just know one thing that to help others is the work of God and We should try to do this without making any kind of excuse. This is the only thing which religion (every )teaches us.

  • John Dashner III

    Thanks very much for this well-written article. My purpose for coming online today was to find something specific to this very point, your article hit the nail right on the head.