I had a conversation with someone recently, and I mentioned the volunteering and community work that I do, she responded with something I wasn’t really expecting.
“That must make you feel good.”
I didn’t know how to respond so I said no, because it doesn’t. I can’t really think of anything I’ve done that made me feel good. Which got me thinking, what doesn’t feeling good even mean?
I can think of a handful of times in my life that I felt joy, happiness, anything like that. Getting married, I felt happy, not as happy as I wanted to. At the time I wasn’t really great at feeling things. I felt somewhat proud when I graduated from college. I felt happy to the point of tears when I held my new birth certificate, and the first time I looked in the mirror and saw a woman.
So in almost thirty years of life, those are the memories I have of feeling good, of feeling happy, of feeling joy. That probably sounds bad, but I’m not generally miserable. I just don’t feel good a lot.
Which raises a couple of questions for me, do people go through life feeling good and bad, and hunting for that good feeling? Is that the motivation for people, to create instances where things just feel good? Maybe I’m somewhat broken from the fact that things have generally not been good. Chasing those highs seems somewhat unreliable.
This also raises the question to me, do people only volunteer, do they give back because they want to chase that good feeling? Does helping someone else make you feel good?
Is it really altruistic if you’re doing it because of how you’ll feel. I don’t volunteer out of altruism, my purpose is rather selfish. I work with certain groups with causes that benefit people like me, including me. I spend my time supporting a community that supports me, I don’t think that’s altruism. That’s fairly self-concerned.
I don’t have a lot of answers here, I’m just working through some questions.
I think there needs to be more of a reason to do things then how you’ll feel about them, you need to think that they are good. That they matter, that they’re helpful or important to someone else. Relying on your feelings on the matter is irrelevant. I think this is where the ‘white saviour’ trope comes from. If all I’m concerned about is my feelings toward something then the most good I can create is for myself.
I’m going to keep thinking on this one because it’s stuck with me and is bothering me. What is feeling good, what does it feel like? What does happiness feel like. My goal has often been contentment. I have a friend who has a saying, there are bad times and worse times. I’ve always liked it.
One thought on “On Feeling Good”
That was so thought provoking, I had to reply. I think there are different reasons for volunteering, When I have heard people encouraging others to volunteer, they usually emphasised that it isn’t a one way street – that the volunteer also often gains experience, contacts, and hopefully a sense of being useful and valuable. It depends on the people and the work of course. Organisations that rely on large numbers of reliable volunteers might put more energy into making the experience a pleasant one. JobSearch agencies here in Australia often push the idea that voluntary work may lead to paid work. Counsellors encourage depressed, socially isolated people to get out and meet new people that way. But I agree that feeling good about it isn’t necessarily why someone might volunteer. I’ve done it for different reasons at different times.
If I may add a personal observation, it sounds as though your overall mood is low. I have to keep an eye on my own mood because depression runs in my family. There have been times when ‘feeling good’ seemed impossible, even ludicrous, and I was treated for depression, so I wonder if you are depressed. Hope you don’t mind me saying this. Maybe you have spoken about it elsewhere.