It’s OK to Not Be OK
For those of us in North America, it may seem like the Olympics have been a little bit of an afterthought this cycle (though as I write this, I know many of my Canadian colleagues have been glued to the screen watching the Canadian women’s soccer team play for the gold medal. Congratulations!). The timing of the Olympics, with most events happening during the middle of the night here in North America, has made it more difficult to watch, and the specter of COVID-19 has many of us still preoccupied and worried.
Yet, the Olympics has still provided us incredible moments, some of them about the athletics involved, but many more about the spirt of humanity. The Olympics have always been about competition, of course, but also about bringing the world together. How could you not be moved to see the high jumpers for Italy and Qatar—having realized they could share the gold medal—run around the stadium in tears, happy for themselves and each other? Or watching the triple jumper from Burkina Faso win the first medal ever for his country since its creation in 1972?
And then there is the story of Simone Biles, whose incredible courage has shown us all that what matters most is our health. Here she was, at one of the most high-profile events of her life, having been told time after time that you work through the pain, with everyone expecting her to win, deciding to flip the script. It was truly a remarkable and brave decision.
Winning can feel extraordinary. Being part of a successful team is amazing. Overcoming challenges and stress can make us feel strong and triumphant.
But none of that matters—and really, none of that is possible anyway—if we don’t feel healthy: physically, mentally, emotionally. It’s as simple as that. We can’t help others, we can’t function up to our full potential in a team, we can’t easily reach our goals—if we aren’t healthy, in all the ways.
Yet, while we tend to be accepting of obvious physical ailments and injuries, mental health isn’t something that we as a society are always as accepting of—yet. Hopefully the example of Simone will swing the pendulum further and allow us all to talk even more openly about mental health and the pressure and stress we all feel in our lives.
I feel this acutely for you, our community of fundraisers, especially as we approach the “season of giving,” the last quarter of the year when so much giving occurs. There is incredible stress in fundraising, as you all well know: the pressure of raising money to help communities in need, of not letting people down, of wanting to make a difference. At the same time, we are working to transform our sector and society, taking down systems that led to inequity and revealing long-standing scars and inequalities that continue to plague us. The impact of those efforts is important, but it can be difficult and painful, especially for our BIPOC colleagues, creating new kinds of stress and pressure.
We all want to be the GOAT—Greatest Of All Time—having met or exceeded our goals and seeing real transformation in our organizations and in our communities.
But fundraising is stressful and challenging work. And it’s OK not to be OK. And if you’re not OK, please know that we all need some professional help and assistance from time to time, and I encourage you to find some.
Simone Biles was not OK, and she stood up for herself. It seems to me that she listened to her gut, threw off the pressure that others were putting on her and demonstrated that it is OK to take care of yourself.
And you know what? She’ll be back, in whatever way she wants. Because she’s the only one who knows what she needs and how to take care of herself best.
So again, I’ll say: It’s okay not to be OK, whether you’re an Olympic gymnast or a professional fundraiser. Take care of yourself and find the support, help and assistance you need.
Some suggested resources:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): nami.org
- Mental Health America: mhanational.org
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
- Canadian Mental Health Association: https://cmha.ca/
Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA