It’s been a while! Now that the holiday season is upon us and I’ve had a week or so to blob out to Netflix, I have some time to write.
I wanted to share some of the things I’ve been reflecting on from my experiences volunteering (and just doing life) this year. There’s a long way to go to get where I want to be and I have plenty more to learn, but if I can encourage even one person to get more involved in their community and their goals and dreams, that’s awesome. So, here goes.
Reflections from 2018
We need to fight the age of selfishness. I can’t help but notice our society is heading further and further down the slippery slope of self-obsession. Narcissistic personality traits are on the rise. As a society, we tend to focus on bettering ourselves and our positions without taking action to empower the community. And while there are tonnes of people who still do care, what we usually see online is usually all ‘me, me, me’…and so this validation of selfishness gets more and more embedded in our collective consciousness. But in my view, the most self improvement actually happens when we look outside of ourselves. Yes, we all need to have personal goals and dreams. We all need to be able to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others. But remember that we’re so much happier when we connect with and help those around us - so don’t forget the community. Even if you’re feeling down, try and reconnect. Do something for others, and not just in a token way. Really commit. It will do more for you than any amount of likes on a selfie will.
It’s crucial to think about how we can best serve others - really. It’s not about having a ‘white saviour’ mentality, doing something in expectation of a reward, or imposing our beliefs or ways of life on others. It’s about wanting to actually do something legitimately helpful. It’s about making society fairer, more equal, more compassionate. So what’s the best way we can put ourselves to good use in this world, while making sure anyone we help has a voice and has agency in their own lives? Examine your own privileges, motives, biases…we all have them, so the key thing is to address them.
Not everything we do should feel comfortable. Usually, when we put ourselves out there or try new things, we feel far from comfortable. We might feel stretched, awkward, inadequate, afraid. But, cliche as it is, this is where we experience the most growth. Lean into it. Soon, what was once uncomfortable and unknown will become the new comfort zone.
Know how to keep yourself safe and well-cared for. It can be easy to lose sight of our own well-being when we’re doing things we’re passionate about. But it’s important to keep ourselves safe and well, too. To illustrate with an example…say you’re out in the field volunteering and you find yourself in a situation where you feel at risk. Don’t feel bad about removing yourself from that situation, just do it. Respect your boundaries. Seek advice and support from your supervisors if needed. Plus, make sure you’re volunteering somewhere where the organisation and your supervisors are on the ball when it comes to health and safety, so you know you’re in good hands.
You have to get your hands dirty. Yes, sometimes we can help from afar (by donating, for example) - but other times, we have to live it, in all its uncomfortable messiness. It’s not always easy. In fact, to be honest, I find this fact hard to navigate at times. But trying to get good stuff done in the world isn’t always going to be sunshine, rainbows and warm fuzzies.
It’s better to commit fully to less than to spread yourself too thin. This has definitely been a big one for me in 2018. Going into 2019, I need to figure out how to be more effective with my time, energy and resources. If you’re just getting started, finding an organisation you believe in, can stick to, and that will really put you to practical use, is vital.
You will meet some of the best people you’ll ever know. People say it’s hard to make friends as an adult? Not when you are volunteering.
What have you learnt in 2018? Shout out with your thoughts.
Feel the fear. Be your best. Give back.