The ‘Hat Theory’ : How I Deal with My Anxiety in the Non-Profit Sector

Working in the non-profit sector means that you have to network, talk to volunteers, educators, constituents, and donors. A lot.

Right after starting my non-profit, I couldn’t talk to a new person without reminders to breathe. Speaking in front of people or with large groups of people was borderline debilitating. Even now, years later, my co-founder and I usually divide tasks into what requires talking to people, and what doesn’t.

When I have to talk to people about the non-profit, I do enjoy it- but it drains me considerably. I have tried various techniques and coping skills to help me through these situations, and I have finally come up with something that allows me to enjoy the networking and social interactions required of me.

I call it the Hat Theory.

The Hat Theory let’s me go into specific characters in specific situations. The hats in this theory are invisible, but if real hats work for you, great!

Need to talk to a donor? Without my hat I am extremely anxious and shy, but when I wear my Financial Hat (which I usually imagine as a top hat), I can answer any questions with enthusiasm. Need to present a workshop to volunteers? My trusty volunteer cap turns me into a pumped up motivator read to rally the group together.

Get the picture?

In a perfect world, I wouldn’t need my Hats. But as someone who has Panic Disorder, these Hats allow me to step outside of ‘myself’ to do the work for the organization that I have created and fallen in love with.

Being anxious doesn’t need to stop you from making a difference.

You just have to find the right hat.

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