At the very beginning of our organization, when we first shared decision making and power with new people, we were wondering how to prevent mistakes and failures that would happen with inexperienced people. Now I know that was very stupid, because the real problem lies somewhere else: how to make sure that people who care about social change do not retreat because they fear failure and do not quit because they are convinced that they are not good enough.
I often think that we could do way more if so many people would not cut themselves down by assuming they are not good enough to start new projects or coordinate campaigns. It is a serious problem, because the world really needs every pair of hands it can get to work on solving some of the most pressing problems. I noticed that often the problem is not that people don’t care enough – but that they actually care a lot – but they think there is someone much better who is better equipped to work on solutions. During these few years of running a dynamically developing organization, I have learned two important things about not being good enough.
This is a sign of common sense.
We want to change the world. We are fighting enormous injustice and suffering. Our opponents are often huge lobbies, international corporations and centuries of harmful traditions. If in the face of all this you are scared and feel inadequate, you are right. If you don’t feel that way, then there is something wrong with you. I would be much more afraid to have people on the team who think they know what they’re doing because nobody really knows it. We are trying to completely change the course of human development and make history in the process. No one has ever done this before and we are repeatedly taking chances and testing various solutions. Being humble is a good piece of advice.
This feeling does not pass.
I don’t know if it is comforting, but there is a good chance that the feeling that you are not good enough to do the things that you do will be with you for a very long time. Maybe forever. If you grow, the things that scare you today, in a year or two, will turn into a routine and you will take on more challenges that will also scare you. I myself try to make friends with this feeling and treat it as a gift. Because if I feel that I’m not good at what I do, I keep trying to learn and develop. Of course, the feeling of constant anxiety is not pleasant, but it must be accepted as part of the process of gaining experience, struggling with challenges and becoming better. It’s definitely not nice, so have comfort in knowing that it’s very common.
The most important thing, however, is that in order to change the world for the better, we don’t need a couple of people who are perfect, but a large number of imperfect people who can work well together and create strong organizations and social movements, because only they will be able to change reality. There are no perfect people, so if we have this idea that only people without flaws should be involved in social change, there simply wouldn’t be any organizations or movements.
Dobrosława Gogłoza is CEO of Anima International. She is also the co-founder and the first president of Polish animal protection organization Otwarte Klatki (Open Cages). Dobrosława has been advising numerous organizations in the region on strategy, campaigning, volunteer management and development, using skills honed over 10 years of working in both the animal rights and women’s rights movements.