Confidence, Leadership and Volunteering

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Confidence defined by Merriam-Webster:

  • a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something
  • a feeling or belief that someone or something is good or has the ability to succeed at something
  • the feeling of being certain that something will happen or that something is true

The only thing I am confident about in life is that I was born with little confidence.  And that may not be a bad thing.  I have been able to say I was good at several things by working hard at them, but that never led me to feel “confident” in any.  Instead, it left me with a sense of being able to do something on autopilot.  Is that confidence?  I also would never say that what is true for me is true for anyone else.  So if confidence hinges on being clear about what is true and I never would presume I know the “best” or “truest” way to approach anything or even what truth is, then clearly I have little confidence.

My least favorite advice:

“Fake it till you make it.”

When I have experimented with it, this route to confidence feels like it leads to any number of paths where you have to keep faking it to sustain them.  In other words, it leaves you with a sheen of inauthentic separation from your core that takes you where you think you want to go.

An alternative?:

“Make time to learn to appreciate all you are.”


If confidence is not my friend, why have I been told by others throughout my life that they see leadership potential in me?  And why do I not want to be a leader?  When I asked these questions, it dawned on me that volunteering is the one area in my life where any sort of “leadership” qualities emerge.

Some characteristics of leaders:

  • Charismatic
  • Dedicated
  • Committed to goals of an organization
  • Optimistic
  • Confident
  • Works well with others
  • High level of knowledge and technical skills related to the task at hand
  • Demonstrates originality and a long term perspective
  • Focused on building strong relationships with others
  • Inspires trust and confidence in other members of the group


What I love about volunteering is that I can be authentically me, even without a shred of confidence.  I am able to walk into a group, learn something new, and be welcomed and appreciated to support a common project or goal.  No self-marketing or faking it is required.  Only showing up and being willing to chip in.

The cruel irony if one finds a best career choice is volunteering because your greatest potential shines is that you are not monetarily compensated.  In fact, the very definition of volunteering is:  “A person who does work without getting paid to do it; a person who offers services for free.”

Below I’ve compiled links to all the organizations (quite certain I’m missing a few) for which I have volunteered over my lifetime, either in small monetary gifts or with my time and elbow grease, in order to have a mini-directory someone else might be inspired to act from.

Many people belong to religious communities and tithe some of their income regularly.  I do not belong to a religious community, and while some have pointed out the foolhardiness of giving to others when I myself live without any financial cushion and often work 7 days a week, I have always resonated with a philosophy that I am here for a brief flash of time, and I’d rather have my energy be used in ways that benefit more than myself.  I can’t take whatever I stash with me.  I also never give more than I have to give at any moment in time.


R = Recipient, D = Donor, V = Volunteer

American Red Cross (R&D)

Camp Goodtimes (R&V work day coming up)

Catholic Community Services (V)

CureSearch (D&V)

Easter Seals (V)

Friends of The Earth International (hiked in Japan with Chikyu No Tomo before climate change was a household world)

Good Cheer Garden and Food Bank (R&D&V)

Kilung Foundation (R&D)

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (2006-2015, R&V)

Literacy Source  (1990s – I volunteered @ Literacy Action Center Greenwood Library, which does not exist anymore, so I’m linking a similar program)

Make A Wish (R&V soon)

National MS Society (V, walks)

Playing For Change (D)

Pema Chodron Foundation Book Initiative (R of books – not via initiative, D)

Relay For Life (D&V)

Ronald McDonald House Charities (R&D&V)

Seattle Children’s Hospital (R&D&V)

Sierra Club (D)







About Erin W

A sensitive plant, bamboo strong.
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