Volunteer Slut

Another socked-in, stormy day for us. I know if we move down south, we’ll have lots more of this kind of weather, but for here it’s very unusual to have day after day of it. Yesterday afternoon it cleared off, so much so that I put the top down on the convertible and enjoyed the hot autumn sunshine.

I don’t mind the cozy, rainy days, either.

I’m wrestling with not volunteering lately. There’s something going on – a pretty big something – that I’ve been peripherally involved in. Right now the planning is floundering and there are no clear leaders. They desperately need help and I could do it.

I’m trying not to.

I’m a Volunteer Slut, but I’m trying to reform.

Please read that as being someone who can’t stop herself from volunteering, rather than as someone who volunteers to be a slut. Though the latter sounds kind of fun.

See, I was raised with the idea of service. My mom volunteered for political campaigns and charitable organizations. My stepfather was an election judge and started a foundation to encourage kids to graduate from high school. I was in, and was president of, service clubs in school and joined a sorority in college which, as opposed to common (mis)perception, is largely about service, to your sisters and to the larger world. It’s part of my belief system, that we should give of ourselves and our time to improve other people’s lives, both personally and professionally.

However, I tend to overdo.

Yes, I know. You shake your heads in shock. It’s true. I know it. This is why I’m trying to reform.

Once my two-year tenure ended as president of an enormous online chapter, I promised David I wouldn’t be on any boards of anything for at least a year. I’m 3/4 through 2011 and so far, I’m making it. I did not run for regional delegate for RWA. I did not agree to take a board position for my local chapter. I did chair a party and coordinate a contest, but I figure those don’t count.

And it has helped. I’m getting more writing done and am able to focus energy on marketing efforts for it. The day job isn’t killing me. (Sweet peas for the win!) I even get to read books.

I have to remind myself that just because I can help, doesn’t mean I have to. Or even should.

Then I see a plaintive email. I start thinking, how much time would it really take?

My own version of White Knight syndrome.

Help me stay strong!

21 Replies to “Volunteer Slut”

  1. I have an uncontrollable need to please people, which is why I volunteer for things so often. And I’m not just talking political campaigns, but little things as well. “Oh you need someone to watch your kids two nights a week FOR THE REST OF TIME? I’ll do it. How bad can it be? You’ll feed them first, right?” “Well, I don’t exactly have time to BETA read, but sure, I’ll read your 700 page MS about squirrels.”

    LISTEN TO ME JEFFE: DON’T DO IT.

    Volunteering is selfish. That’s right, you heard me. If you volunteer, you’ll feel good about yourself, and really, then it’s ALL ABOUT AN EGO BOOST for you. Sure, those little kids need someone to read to them, but you’re only doing it for the good, tingly feeling you give yourself when you say, “I done good.” Stop.it.now.

    This message has been brought to you by a compulsive volunteer-er. I’ve been off the volunteering for 6 months, 5 days and 14 hours. You can do it too.

    1. Geez, Marlita, the first thing I thought when I read that was, “oh, that would be fun and interesting – I could do that.” Stop me now! (Still, it *does* look interesting…)

      1. You know where to find me you would be a GREAT asset to the team! You could just pick and choose things to do here and there.

  2. Oh boy, this is me too. I am currently the treasurer or in some way responsible for 4 checkbooks (including our own), in addition to the millions of dollars that I’m responsible for at work (my rather demanding job all by itself). I am a Girl Scout leader for Rachel’s 6th grade troop.

    I have recently told myself that others are QUITE capable of stepping up to the plate to handle X, Y or Z. Just because I *can* doesn’t mean I *should* do it. Especially if it results in near-constant crankiness towards those I love most.

    Someone once told me that if I volunteer to run stuff (or even be heavily involved) ALL THE TIME, it keeps others from learning those valuable skills and experiencing the rewards of a job well done.

    Of course, I’m saying all this while NOT reducing my volunteer load for another year. I am carefully not taking on more, however, and actively working on getting others involved so they can take over at least one of these areas by this time next year (wrestling treasurer).

    One of the rewards of this crazy volunteering is that the 6th grade Girl Scouts are learning to take the responsibility for planning their activities and running their meetings. It is VERY VERY rewarding to watch them grow!! And getting to show them how doing their part to impact their community – not to be over-achieving, but to actually impact – really works. We’re dealing with a lot of bullying in our school – not the beating each other up kind, but the words kind. Our girls are taking it on themselves to be agents of change for that. It’s cool to be part of that.

    Bottom line – I feel your pain! I think you are wise to hold yourself back and let someone else step up. There are worthy activities, and then there are ego-building involvements. It sounds like you know the difference 🙂

    1. Oh yes, Joan. I was on three boards there for a while. For some reason I can’t seem to be part of an organization without ending up on the board. So far! That’s what I’m really hoping with this situation I’m watching – that other people will step up. There’s a plenty big pool. Love the philosophy that I’m creating a vacuum that will suck someone in and help them grow!

    1. I”m trying to do one better, Linda, by pretending I don’t even notice and thus can’t have the conversation to begin with! (Cuz saying NO! just isn’t that easy at all…)

  3. Uhm, contest coordination is actually one of the harder volunteer roles…

    Congrats on the self-restraint. I know it’s not easy breaking your addiction to being a volunteer slut. (Gods, I can’t type that last part without cracking up.)

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