Saying no

Tonight I stepped down from my leadership position on the Board of an organization that I have been part of for many years and that I am a big believer in. I had begun to recognize over the past several months that I had been feeling dread anytime I thought of this organization, and behind that dread was one overriding emotion: guilt.

I felt guilty because I wasn't devoting enough time or energy to the organization, and I kept making new resolutions--"I'm really going to do more this month!"--and then breaking them, and sometimes offering up little internal criticisms to make myself feel justified--"Well, it's just not coming together effectively, that's why I'm not more active."

And then this summer, one of the other officers sent me an email in which he expressed concern that the organization needed a certain amount of attention that he simply wasn't able to give it, and he was thinking of stepping down. This is a person I respect, who has done a lot of work for the organization.

I found myself pondering his email at odd moments.

Stepping down, eh? Can't give the organization the attention it needs? There was nothing wrong with him--he wasn't explaining that he was just going to try harder this month (perhaps by sleeping less? Spending less time with friends and family?), or apologizing for his lack of moral fiber, the selfishness or laziness that he's trying to overcome in order to do a better job. Instead, he was simply recognizing that this position wasn't a good fit with the energy and time he had available to offer.

"I could do that," I thought. "That might be me. It's not that I'm not trying hard enough; it's that this position isn't a good fit for someone who's already doing as much as I am. Or it may just be that it's not a good fit for me."

So tonight I stepped down. It felt a bit like a leap of faith. I'm someone who gets a lot of my sense of self worth from the things I do, and giving back this leadership position made me uneasy. But I'm trying to learn the value of saying no, of only taking on those activities that enrich my life and that really require my particular expertise. And I reminded myself that I'm not leaving them in the lurch--I'm making room for a better-fitting leader to step in. (And, fortunately, he did, at the end of the meeting.)


Cassie said...

I'm very proud of you for saying no and doing this super healthy thing. As we've chatted about a lot, it is extremely difficult for people who care about others and have a lot of interests to prevent themselves from being overcommitted (by others or through their own actions). And when we--as any normal human being would--can't get it all done the way we want to, who do we blame? Ourselves, often. That's no good.

So three cheers for you for saying no, being healthy in your self-care, and opening up new horizons for that organization! May we all make such good decisions.

Kenneth said...

As I have learned, it's very flattering to be asked by bigwigs to contribute time and energy. But as I also have learned, I have only so much time and energy.