How can we thrive as humanitarians? By challenging the narrative of service before self

Dimple Dhabalia
2 min readJul 17


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I’m on a mission to challenge the narrative of service before self in humanitarian work. To change long-standing beliefs that by choosing to work in service of others, we’re also agreeing to sacrifice our time, our relationships, our health and well-being — our humanity.

To help me further my mission I signed up for Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole’s cohort-based course, Ship 30 for 30.

Here are a few reasons why:

  1. I feel an urgency to talk about these issues because I’ve seen in my own experiences, the way our needs as humanitarians are often overlooked because we silently do our work, minimize our own trauma, and put off healing our wounds to continue serving others.
  2. For many years I didn’t realize I could both acknowledge my pain and serve others at the same time, that being a humanitarian doesn’t have to be — and really shouldn’t be — one or the other.
  3. This became even more prevalent through COVID as we watched all kinds of humanitarians — teachers, activists, caregivers, healthcare professionals, first responders, public servants, government workers, members of the clergy, journalists, international aid and development corps — put others before themselves, over and over again, only to get burned out, sick, or worse.

Over the next 30 days, I plan to write about mission-driven occupational trauma, radically human leadership, and mindful awareness. These topics aren’t discussed enough, but they should be. I hope my words plant seeds and start some some conversations that will change the sector, and allow humanitarians to flourish and thrive in service and in life.

Let me know if you have any questions along the way or have specific topics you’d like me to address. Changing the narrative of service before self is a story we must write together.



Dimple Dhabalia

Writer | Podcaster | Leadership + Story-Healing Coach