Once you start working as an attorney, you’re typically bombarded with requests for fundraisers, events, etc. helping support one cause after another. The good news is that, student debt aside, many of us eventually find ourselves able to participate in traditional forms of philanthropy. The bad news is that being more aware of problems can lead to you feeling overwhelmed with your ability to help. As women of color, we may feel more empathy to seeing these injustices because we know first-hand how unfair, mean, and biased the system can be to others—many of these causes are not just something we hear of, third-hand, but rather real problems our family and community experience. Eventually, you can feel paralyzed in deciding what to support; guilt that you can’t do more to help; or the flooding of emotions can turn to apathy because you start to think that you can’t do anything that will create real change.
When you find yourself in a position to offer help—how do you manage to not feel overwhelmed?
When I first was able to start donating to causes I found it difficult to select something “worthy” because I would learn about another issue that seemed more pressing, more harmful than the one before; finally, I decided that I had to support an agency that I felt incredibly passionate about so that I could mitigate the guilt I felt about not being able to do more with other issues. This really helped with any negative feelings because I felt so positive about the help I was giving my pet passion.
It’s also important to keep yourself informed about issues in your community and on global issues. Yes, it’s overwhelming and can leave you feeling frustrated by the lack of progress—but by keeping yourself open to learning about issues can lead to you learning about simple, small, non monetary steps you can take to help address a wrong (like boycotting certain stores; purchasing certain items over others; tipping in cash rather than on credit). Those things can make small differences that don’t depend on you donating money or time.
Finally opening yourself up to learning about these problems can impact your mental health. This whole post was inspired by a panel I attended where an audience member asked how exactly do we keep ourselves from feeling hopeless as we learn about one problem after the other when we have limited means to help? Feeling hopeless in one area of your life can permeate into other areas so self-care is super important. Take the time to gage how you are feeling and balance negative emotions by making sure you are taking care of yourself mentally and physically.