#MyBrave2017 is a series of guest posts from women who are determined to live bravely in the little things and the big things. Join my email list so you can read them all.
I’m a helper, a doer, an organizer. I have a really hard time saying “no” when someone or an organization needs help. The teachers need four-dozen cookies for conferences? No problem. Not enough volunteers at the fundraiser? Count me in. Need me to serve on a committee? I’m your gal. Need a board member for the non-profit. Absolutely. Organizing a rally? Count me in.
Does this sound familiar to you? Maybe you’re a helper too. The world needs helpers like us. Non-profits, public schools, and philanthropic organizations need caring hearts who are also great doers. Unfortunately, the helpers and doers who keep the ship afloat often find themselves drowning or adrift while the hustle and bustle continues around them. Their own plans and goals get set aside because putting self ahead of the needs of others feels selfish.
Last year I took a personality test. If you’ve never taken one of these tests, I highly suggest you do. There are free tests online (I took the 16 Personalities test) that help you uncover who you are, what makes you tick and why you do the things you do. I discovered that my personality traits explain my desire to make the world a better place, wanting everyone to get along and always striving towards ideals and looking for the best in people. Hence, why I always say “yes”, even at the expense of my own mental health or my family. As I learned more about my personality type I began to learn how it is easy to resent someone or something but still go above and beyond for them. Telling someone “no” feels like a weakness and more importantly, like I’m letting them down even when the one I’m letting down is myself.
It is easy for the helpers of the world to become overwhelmed and despondent at their level of effectiveness or ineffectiveness in the organizations they serve. It’s easy to give a knee-jerk reaction when it all becomes too much to just say “I quit!” to it all. The temptation to turn your back on everything and become a hermit in your house is great. I’ve considered that very thing, and often. Thankfully time and talking it over with someone from a different viewpoint and different personality stops me from setting everything on fire.
Over the past year I have slowly started to evaluate my level of participation in different organizations. Church, school, and volunteer work have been under the microscope. I’ve prayed about my role in each situation, I’ve scrutinized my intentions as well as the intentions of each organization. I’ve reevaluated life goals and dreams and asked myself the hard questions of what I really want for myself, for my family and for my community. Asking these questions can be really scary because sometimes the answers force you to assess if you are on the right path to realizing those dreams. Often times, being a constant helper and volunteer puts your own needs and desires on the back burner. It can feel selfish to put yourself at the top of your priority list but sometimes it can be the bravest thing you can do. I’m not a psychologist and don’t know the theory behind why we do what we do, but I feel that God puts dreams into our hearts for a reason. Inspiration and desire to do something wonderful with your life comes from someplace bigger than our own psyche.
What if we started examining our goals and dreams in the context of how God could use them to not only fulfill our lives but make the lives of those around us better? What if we have filled our time with other things, good things, but other things? Are we being truthful to ourselves and faithful to God? God knows our potential and plants seeds of dreams to help us realize that potential. When those dreams start to grow, maybe it’s time to reevaluate how we spend our time and admit it may be time to let go in order to move forward.
Scrutinizing where we spend our time and energy is hard but brave. It takes courage to realize that something may have run its course. It takes courage to say “no” the next time someone asks you to volunteer. It takes courage to step back from a responsibility and let someone else take the lead. All of these things take great courage because of our fear of disappointing others and our fear that things will fall apart without us. Fear is a powerful master and can keep us in one place until we are ready to look it in the face, admit it exists and then take control. Fear will always be there but bravery is moving forward in spite of the fear. It takes great bravery to move on from something and admit that they will probably be okay without our help. Someone else will step in to our take our place and the fear of missing out or being missed cannot overshadow the courage needed to work on the dreams God has put in our hearts.
For me, stepping back from too many responsibilities has been over a two-year process. I started to see burn out a few years ago and frustration at how much time I was spending for other people. Rather than dumping it all and turning into a homebody, I started to evaluate where I was spending my time. I started to ask which responsibilities were a joy and which were a burden. I slowly started taking fewer responsibilities from the things that I no longer felt inspired by with the intention of replacing them with work on the dreams that had been flickering in my heart. I’m still in the process of adjusting my duties and time. I don’t feel right leaving people in a lurch but I know that I can no longer stay with something just for the sake of saying I’m volunteering.
Transitioning out of a roll into another one takes time and constant vigilance. It’s very easy to say “yes” to little things that can lead to bigger commitments while you’re trying to eject. However, it’s important to stand firm and brave in your commitment to yourself while you finish your responsibilities.
Do you have dreams that have been slowly simmering in your heart? Dreams waiting to be realized? Maybe it’s time to reevaluate how your time in spent in order to turn those dreams into reality.
Stephanie Clinton is a writer and blogger but more importantly, a wife and mother to two little boys. In addition to writing her blog, Hugs, Kisses and Snot, Stephanie also has a retro cooking YouTube channel, Recipe Archaeology. In her free time (if there is any) she can be found wiping snotty noses and volunteering in her community and church. Learn more about Stephanie and her passion to encourage women at www.hugskissesandsnot.com
Ready to live more bravely? Find out how brave you are by taking the How Brave Are You? Quiz and joining the Choose Brave: 5 Day Video Guide to Practicing Courage.