If this year of turmoil has taught us anything, it is that we need those with solutions to be fully empowered. That means you, social change leaders. In order to benefit from the solutions you offer for the many social problems we now face, we need you to reclaim your power as the social change superhero you are meant to be.
Overgiving is such an ethos of the social change sector. And to be brutally honest, it is actually a disease. I don’t use the word “disease” lightly — I mean the actual definition of the word disease which is “a condition that impairs normal functioning.” The overgiving that is rampant in the nonprofit sector is actually impairing the normal functioning of social change efforts.
But first, what is nonprofit overgiving?
Overgiving is recognized by psychologists as a self-sabotaging behavior. Psychology Today makes a distinction between healthy generous giving and unhealthy overgiving, like this:
Generous giving comes from a generous place, which implies that you have taken care of your own needs and can put forth energy toward others. It comes from a full heart. Over-giving, on the other hand, is not the ultimate form of selflessness. Instead, it essentially comes from an inability to receive. That means you give, give, give because you think (or hope) it will be appreciated, or because it makes you feel good about yourself, or because you feel morally obligated to.”
Let’s be honest for a minute. “Generous giving” is rare in the nonprofit sector.
Whoa, did I just say that? The sector that is defined by its ability to give is doing giving wrong?
Yeah, that’s what I said.
But think about it for a minute. Generous giving comes from a place where “you have taken care of your own needs.” Right out of the gate that is not the reality for the vast majority of nonprofit leaders. In fact, most nonprofit leaders rarely take care of their own very basic human needs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a meeting with a nonprofit leader who a) hasn’t taken a bathroom break in hours and/or b) is starving because they forgot to eat breakfast or lunch. And that’s not even mentioning the less basic, but still critical, needs higher up on Maslow’s hierarchy that you are likely denying yourself.
If you are not paying attention to what your mind, body and spirit need, how can you possibly give anything of value to another person or project? So overgiving impairs your ability to create social change.
And thus, overgiving is a disease of the nonprofit sector. Luckily it is one you can solve for yourself. You can even start solving it today.
The first step is to recognize that you must always — every single day, every single minute — meet all of your own needs before you attempt to meet the needs of others. That means if you are exhausted, you take a nap — or better yet, a week vacation. If you are hungry, you make the time to sit down and fully enjoy a tasty meal.
This isn’t rocket science, but I know it is really hard for you selfless lot. Because I’ve been there too. Throughout the majority of my career I didn’t take a lunch break. I believed that I didn’t have time for it, or (let’s be honest) I wasn’t worthy of it. The work I was doing, the people I was serving, were more important than the grumbling of my stomach or my tired eyes.
But you know what? I realized a few years ago that I am so much more productive, I am so much more helpful, energized and inspiring to my clients when I am well-rested, well-fed, and happy.
So give it a try. Ask yourself, “What does my mind, body or spirit really need right now?” Then take a break and go do that. I promise you, the work of saving the world will be right here waiting for you. The difference will be that you, social change warrior, will be equal to that task when your needs have been met.
There’s a lot more about how to stop overgiving in my upcoming book, Reinventing Social Change, out February 2021. To get book previews, pre-sale announcements, and other exciting offers related to the book, make sure to join the Social Velocity e-list here.
And if you want to discuss how I might help you reclaim your power and move your social change goals forward, let’s talk.
Photo Credit: Riz Mooney