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happyI’ve dieted. And sure, I’ve sat there, chocolate cupcake in hand watching a commercial where the svelte people tout how much weight they’ve lost on the low carb or cabbage soup or just buy this little pink pill diet. Heck, I’ve admired the ones who look so freakishly happy because they finally got the weight off. Wow, look at them. That could be me.
So. why wasn’t it me? What insidious reason came between me and my easily obtainable goal of looking like Tyra Banks strutting down the runway in a Paris trunk show? (I won’t mention that a. I’m ridiculously too old, b. I’m seriously too short and c. I inherited my mother’s plough pulling non-dainty build.)
Why don’t I want to be one of the twirling, hair tossing, always smiling model thin people? Because I’m not them. That’s not me. Sure, I want to be healthy and I’m taking steps to be that. I want to feel good and I’m working on that too. I want to wear clothes that don’t bind or pinch and I’m trying to stop stress eating. But the folks who represent dieting plans and products look so one-dimensional to me. Look at them, they’re focused. They don’t come home to a pile of throw up in the entryway because the dog pulled a half-eaten cupcake from the garbage. They don’t open the refrigerator as the dishwasher starts making a grinding noise which means washing dishes by hand until the repairman comes. They don’t step on the laptop after an unplanned nap in the recliner. No, their lives are perfect. They must be because how else could they accomplish those tough goals and still smile like that?

I compare myself to them and they always win. It’s called social comparison. We look at our lives and the lives of others around us and sometimes we win and sometimes we fail miserably. (all in our heads of course)

There appears to be a lot of reasons folks don’t volunteer. Heck, we all rabidly research and debate the reasons Jessica volunteers and Jorge does not. I’ve tried looking for this magic reason for years, going so far as to include it on a volunteer application and no, it did not give me any insight at all. Instead it annoyed the heck out of people-go figure.
We, volunteer managers twist ourselves into a bigger mess than the wires behind my computer desk trying to make everything perfect to attract volunteers. We are aware of the changing needs of volunteering such as flexible schedules, meaningful experiences and episodic or virtual opportunities. We’ve reinvented ourselves over and over again. So can there be other reasons Greta won’t knock on our door?

I remember a conversation I had a while back with a friend, Judy. I had been trying to get Judy to volunteer for years. She would be perfect, I always thought. Funny, no-nonsense, industrious, she would bring an air of authenticity.
“No,” she said emphatically. “I’m not volunteering. You guys are all so, I don’t know, smiley.” At the time I laughed, but Judy’s perception stayed in my head. And it made me always wonder if there were not some people out there who look at volunteering the way I look at diet models.
Do they think “That’s not me. I’m not that selfless, or happy or giving or whole. I look at volunteer pictures on websites, or Facebook and see volunteers, arms around each other as they pose in front of the playground they built or the building they painted or the kids they saved and I think, I’m not like them.”
Do they read the newspaper and see volunteers receiving awards and think, “Good for them. They must be perfect. Well, I’m not.”
I love to post pictures of volunteers accomplishing awesome things and I automatically assume that anyone who looks at the pictures will want to join in on the super-duper goodness. But don’t diet companies think the same thing about me?
And so, I’m thinking about some re-imagined volunteer slogans to appeal to the “I’m not perfect like them” prospective volunteer:

Volunteering, a Work of Heart = Volunteering, it’s a lot of work but it gets worth it at some point and trust me, sometimes I want to scream that’s it’s not what I thought it would be, but there’s some good in there too.

Help Others, Help Yourself = Heck, I can barely get up in the morning, but at times seeing people worse off than me actually helps a bit.

Volunteers are Priceless = Yeah, there’s no money in volunteering so you can’t mess it up too much.

A Volunteer Journey Begins With a Single Step = Ok, we know it’s really hard to take the slippers off, but we take people in pajamas. You don’t even need to comb your hair.

Just Bring a Caring Heart = Look, it’s a fallacy that all these volunteers are so perfect. We’re all pretty much rotten at times too. But together we can figure it out because nothing is perfect and that’s ok.

So, should I now just post pictures of volunteers milling around looking lost and unhappy? (I could get quite a few of those at times)

No, but just as I don’t view myself as one dimensional, I believe prospective volunteers see themselves as complex too. And a few of them might need to know that volunteers aren’t perfect people who have it all together all the time.

Heck, maybe I’ll post a picture of myself, I could be the poster child for not having it together!