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Insights on My Why

Scheff Shares

Insights on My Why

Looking at my LinkedIn Profile, it may come as a surprise how many boards and committees I’m involved in. You may wonder how I manage it all or why I’d choose to be involved in so many organizations all at once.

So, why do I do what I do?

It’s a simple question that doesn’t have a simple answer. Growing up I was the quintessential people pleasing, over-achieving, perfectionist with social anxiety. This was my identity for most of my life. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with severe anxiety at the age of twenty-seven that many of these pieces of my identity fell into place.

Growing up this way was difficult because the adults in my life loved this version of me, but my peers didn’t. From adults it garnered me praise, responsibility, and opportunities – which were all things that made me feel good as a child. I was pianist from the time I was six years old until I decided to stop competing at fifteen to focus on athletics. I was awarded many character-related awards; awards for scholastic achievement; athletic awards; and even received an award for being the top all-around student in the eighth grade.

While these talents and accolades were things that some of my peers strived for, they were also things that separated me from my peer group in a negative way and attracted teasing. So much so that when I moved up to high school in the ninth grade, I completely stopped doing all things that made me stand out in this way in an attempt to make more friends and be more well-liked. As a result, my high school volunteerism was unremarkable, and I distanced myself from all forms of student governance and service groups.

I was often told I cared too much when I was involved in clubs or committees. This was a comment I’d receive when I was advocating for things to be done the “right way”; expressing frustrations that stemmed from feeling like others weren’t putting in the same level of effort I was; or feeling like others weren’t taking pride in their work in the same way as I did. This continued into college when I volunteered with my undergraduate society as well as into law school volunteering in student governance roles. It was always a mystery to me why these traits weren’t valued by my peers. This changed when I was out of the post-secondary whirlwind and found myself in the “real world”.

Suddenly, the traits that I was mocked for by my peers throughout my life were traits which were highly valued by my clients, colleagues, and fellow volunteers. They were the traits that set me apart and bolstered my professional reputation.

I had always believed that with being a lawyer came a responsibility to serve your community. It was something that I knew I wanted to do and knew that in order to build a successful solicitor practice, I needed to build a professional reputation in my community. Volunteering and doing so with a high degree of pride in my work has always been a part of me.

In short, I do what I do because volunteering at this level allows me to feel like I am being the truest version of myself – the self I have always been but hid for much of my teens and early adulthood.

Finding your why

Knowing why I volunteer allows me to select opportunities which I am passionate about and will allow me to challenge myself personally and professionally. My rule for selecting opportunities is if it isn’t something I am excited to take part in, it isn’t the right fit for me. If it was something that I was excited and passionate about when I took it on but have since lost that excitement and passion; I owe it to myself to exit that opportunity when I am able.

Each organization I work with deserves the best version of me and if I can’t give that, I should step away.

Another way that I select organizations to volunteer with is that I strive to spread my volunteerism out between local, provincial, and national opportunities. Right now, I’m most focused on my local opportunities and volunteer with the Lethbridge Chamber, YWCA Lethbridge and District, and the Lethbridge Bar Association. However, I continue to maintain a provincial opportunity with the Law Society of Alberta and a national opportunity with the Canadian Bar Association. Doing this allows me to be exposed to different individuals at various stages in their careers and learn from them. Seeing various kinds of governance and how other organizations conduct themselves adds to my knowledge and experience and allows me to employ what I’ve learned to help each organization I work with.

In sum, find your why and use it to help you select who you want to volunteer your time with, how many organizations you’d like to volunteer with, and on what scale. It will be more rewarding and ensure that you’re able to give your best effort to the organization choose to share yourself with.

About the Author

Charlene Scheffelmair is a partner with Davidson & Williams LLP in Lethbridge, Alberta. She practices primarily in the areas of corporate and commercial law; residential and commercial real estate; estate administration and planning; and foreclosures.

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