The saying goes that we help ourselves by helping each other. This is certainly something I have experienced to be true, especially during those all-too-frequent moments when I find myself focusing too much on me, me, me. In honour of National Volunteer Week in Canada, here are a few tips to help you find a fulfilling way to lend a hand as an introvert.
#1: Lead with your strengths
When we volunteer our time, we can become reminded of that everlasting truth that we don’t need material rewards in order to gain satisfaction from our work. However, I can’t ignore that other truth that finding fulfilling volunteer work as an introvert can be difficult.
A lot of volunteer positions involve interacting with others in unstructured ways, it seems–chatting with patients at a hospital, mentoring a young person, playing with kids. These are important tasks, for sure, but they’re not for everyone. I myself visited hospital patients when I was in high school, and while I did get to talk with a bunch of interesting people, I also experienced a lot of awkward times where neither I or nor the other person could come up with much to say. I’m just not a chatty person when I don’t have a topic at hand. Someone else was probably better suited to the role, and that’s okay.
Later I went on to help out in the hospital’s volunteer office, and I found I’m better at these kinds of roles–which means the people and organizations I’m serving are better off, too. You’ve got to find your niche, so others can benefit from all that you’re capable of.
#2: Keep yourself open to how you can be of help
At the same time, don’t limit yourself. For example, at the hospital I used to volunteer at, new volunteers were told of how important silent moments when visiting a patient could be. Just sitting in silence for a while can give great comfort to someone who may not have had visitors for a while. All of those “awkward” moments can have a purpose, so don’t fret too much if you can’t yet take your “niche” volunteer position.
A great thing about volunteering is that the time commitment is often short. If you find that you really can’t stand to sit with strangers and chat about any ol’ thing, you can switch it up. You can experiment to figure out just how far out of your comfort zone is too far.
#3: Find joy in the simple tasks
Some volunteer positions that might be more classically introvert friendly can seem simplistic, like picking up garbage or entering in data. I know I can sometimes get caught up in this idea that I have to do big things in order to make an impact, but lately I’ve been learning this: if something brings you pure joy and at the same time is helpful to someone else along the line, it’s best not to question it.
What about you? What kinds of volunteer work have you enjoyed as an introvert? How has it impacted your life?