Altruism and Anxiety

Like many other college students, I’ve got a “save the world” mindset and a “please save your money” bank account. Couple that with social anxiety, and I was a recipe for disaster. Every time I went through a store’s check-out line, I found myself agreeing to donate to whatever charity that store was currently fundraising for. Although I see myself as a person who advocates for a lot of causes, I knew I needed to draw the line somewhere. I was spending at least $15 per week donating to everything from St. Jude’s to Operation Homefront; both are great organizations, but I feel a much stronger desire to help one than the other. When I found myself consistently donating to causes I didn’t believe in, I knew I needed to find a way to get comfortable saying “not today.”

This is where my idea for Altruism with Anxiety came from. I decided to choose one particular subset of organizations that I’d agree to donate to whenever asked. In exchange for the unconditional yes, I subsequently gave myself permission to say no to donating to an organization outside the parameters. Personally, I decided to always give to organizations raising money for cancer. I’m partial to Saint Jude’s, but various children’s hospitals, the American Cancer Society, Give Kids the World Village, and the Make-a-Wish Foundation are some others that fall into the category. That was the perfect way for me to be able to say no without feeling guilty or selfish.

For every individual out there like me, there’s also someone who donates to any animal shelter they can. If it’s not animals, perhaps you’ll always donate to first responders, the elderly, or LGBT groups like The Trevor Project. Maybe giving to groups that benefit the American military is what you care about the most. Whatever it is you believe in so strongly, I encourage you to give all you can to it. You’re under no obligation to say yes to that cashier with the enthusiastic voice asking “would you like to donate a dollar to...”

If you’re sometimes too altruistic for your own good, I encourage you to take my advice. Personally, it’s made me so much more confident in declining to support causes I don’t believe in. Before, I was giving blindly to whatever I was asked. Now I’m donating to what I’m passionate about. That leaves me with only one question: for what will your altruism be an asset?