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.┬áThe 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.