As always, thank you to Vu Le for humor and reality check; see the whole article at http://blueavocado.org/node/920.
After being in this sector for over a decade, I can say that nonprofit professionals are some of the most awesome people on earth. We are smart, talented, dedicated, passionate, caring, humble, witty, cool, and hilarious. Also, we are really good-looking and are great dressers. Let’s see someone from the corporate sector rock that $6.99 button-down shirt from Ross, Dress for Less (originally $13.99).
But we are burning out, you guys. Our natural good looks are obscured by stress-induced wrinkles, grey hair, and maybe one eye that twitches uncontrollably during staff meetings. The work never stops; our organizations are understaffed, and people’s lives depend on our actions and decisions. We work in the evenings, on the weekends, and skip vacations. And when we’re on vacation, we check our emails because we know if we ignore them they will start multiplying like hipsters.
It is a brutal cycle that leads to many of us leaving the sector to make jewelry that is then sold at farmers’ markets. This is a terrible, terrible tragedy, despite the fact that the world needs more necklaces made out of beach glass and soda can tabs.
There are plenty of articles about self-care with lots of tips. Some that are useful — “Say no to crap more often” — and some that border on ridiculous — like “Exercise regularly.”
But these tips only deal with the symptoms of burnout. The causes are much more profound, and are deeply ingrained in the psychology of the nonprofit warrior. We have unconscious beliefs that are undermining our very health and sanity. These include:
The Martyr Complex: We in nonprofits must suffer, for how can we be comfortable when the people we help are suffering so much?
The Myth of Indispensability: Our organization, nay, the world, shall collapse if we personally are not there, constantly keeping watch. (Damn you, Smokey the Bear, for setting the precedent with your high-pressure mantra of “only YOU can prevent forest fires.”)
The Drive for Perfection: We must constantly sharpen our skills and do things better, because the work is complex and mistakes have serious consequences.