“…if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” ~Henry David Thoreau
Confidence. It’s an essential trait when working in the nonprofit world. We beg for money, we rally supporters, we organize the masses–all to support something we see being for the greater good. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that it’s easy to access that confidence when I’m wearing my prevention hat**, but sometimes it’s harder to carry that confidence in my personal life.
It seems kind of silly when I think about it. I can stand in front of 2 or 200 people and speak, without even having to picture them in their underwear. I’ve shook hands with businessmen, legislators, and even a governor or two. It seems that one would have to possess a certain level of confidence for that. Yet whenever those events occurred, it was in the name of something greater than myself. Would I be able to speak those words or shake those hands if the reason were just for me?
This past week, I talked to a colleague about taking on a role that *I* could see him stepping into naturally. If someone were to list the qualifications for this venture and then list his personal attributes beside it, the lists would align almost perfectly. However, if appearances were correct (and he wasn’t just trying to be nice and let me talk), he seemed reluctant to even consider this endeavor–for a number of reasons that genuinely made sense in his mind. It was one of those moments that all I could think of was, “If you could see yourself the way everyone else sees you, then you would know that you could do this.”
Prevention is a “sink or swim” environment. I don’t think I know one single person who went to college to become a substance abuse preventionist. Most of us jumped into the water not knowing how deep it was, and we either learned to swim or we crawled onto a lifeboat and headed to shore for a new profession. But should we stay there treading water or should we find a dock and keep jumping in?
My point is that we constantly ask our coalitions and our community members to take chances and to approach tasks which may seem insurmountable to them. Why don’t we present ourselves with those same level of challenges? Maybe it’s opening that Twitter account to take on the world of social media. Maybe it’s stepping up to a leadership role that seems totally unnatural since we’re so used to keeping things rolling behind the scenes. Maybe it’s showing our long-standing coalition a new technique learned at a training–one that seems exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.
Prevention is one of the most rapidly-changing fields in mental health–just ask anyone who’s been doing this for 20 years. We accept the changes (though sometimes begrudgingly) that we’re presented with year to year, grant to grant, conference to conference, and we make it work. We learn new curriculum, advocate for proven policies, work with diverse populations–and we do it because we are confident in our message and confident in our shared goals. Why would we not be as confident in our own skin? I urge anyone who happens to read this to channel that confidence you exude every day while wearing your prevention hats**. Take on a challenge not knowing if you’ll fail or succeed, because honestly, can it really be a failure if you learn something new?
P.S. For the record, this blog is my own “jumping back into the water again.” My writing skills are beyond rusty, and I second guess every idea out of my head. But I take solace in knowing that only 2-3 people who probably already like me read this–so what is there to lose? 😉
**My prevention hat would similar to a cowboy hat, but with brighter colors. And it would probably shoot glitter.