So here’s the thing. I have a lot of opinions. Don’t we all?
However, since I’m personally on the more introverted and “sensitive” side, you won’t usually find me at a physical rally or screaming at a protest – power to those who do though! I am admittedly much more vocal behind the armor of my Medium and Twitter profiles. These are the godsend of anyone who finds themselves both introverted and angrily brimming with opinions under their composed exterior.
As such, although I aim not to offend and to be understanding in my approach to the issues I write about — from gender shaming and inequalities to animal rights — when push comes to shove, I will defend my values.
My life and actions are centred around them. And so, I believe, they should be.
Is being an activist a waste of time?
So what’s the problem? I have opinions, I like to write about them, as do many others — who cares?
Well, I was recently told by a well-meaning relative that I spend “too much time and energy” worrying about the problems of the world and should learn to “blank it out.”
Learn to focus on my own life and my own problems.
“You’ll burn yourself out…You’ll waste your life.”
And, as do many things, this apparent warning really made me think.
After a little reflection, though, I remain pretty sure one cannot “waste their life” by caring about the issues beyond the relative privilege of their own day-to-day. And besides — if you do have the likes of politics, climate change or social inequalities high on your agenda, then these are very real and inescapable threats to both your own life and your loved ones.
We can’t ignore these issues. They are already threatening, and will only continue to threaten, life and the planet as we know it. That being said, we can’t spend every waking minute tormenting ourselves with the world’s problems either.
You can care about both the world and yourself
I have written already about the dangers of compassion fatigue, so am well aware that while it’s all well and good to fight your corner and engage in global affairs, you still need to give yourself a break and be sure to take care of your own emotional needs first and foremost— if not only for your own good but also for the cause that you can better fight for when you are mentally and physically strong.
But there are some problems with this suggestion that we should somehow blinker ourselves to the issues which — although they may keep us up at night from time to time — are also the fuel to our passions and keep us yearning for progress. The issues which spur us on to take action and become engaged in something outside of ourselves.
You can care about both the world and yourself. In fact — without the former, then concern for the latter becomes obsolete.
Be kind — but be bold
At the risk of surrendering to an all-to-familiar rant about gender stereotypes, (hey, don’t blame me for their omnipresence in most sociopolitical issues) I do wonder if I would be so quickly labelled “whiny” or “pushy” if I were a man? Why is it that when a woman is open about her opinions — whether that be out at a protest, or in the Twittersphere it’s still so often deemed negative? But a man can be much louder and “pushier” and receive nothing but praise and admiration?
This wasn’t even supposed to be a lesson in feminism, but this actually helps to prove my point that when it comes to the causes you fight for, they tend to infiltrate many of your conversations. And if you are truly passionate about them, they are at the forefront of your mind. And you make it your mission to call out those particular injustices whenever duty calls.
Why turn off that spark? It’s a part of you. And quite possibly, it’s what makes you tick.
As long as your chosen cause remains something which drives you, and doesn’t start to become a drain on your energy and motivation, then speak up! If not you, then who will?
Be the change you want to see in the World
If we don’t put our skills towards the causes which matter to us most — then what else is there? Whether it’s writing, singing, or playing the piccolo that you are personally gifted with — if you can channel this skill somehow into the message you feel compelled to shout out to the world, then I say go for it. Not everyone is lucky enough to feel a passion or calling in life — so if you feel the urge to speak out about something you find important, then relish it.
selfish Advocacy: Striking a Balance
Overall, we must find a balance between caring for the world’s problems and maintaining our own mental health. There is a limit to how much we can do as individuals when it comes to the world’s greatest problems, after all. But by doing whatever we can to help — even if it’s an act as simple as writing a tweet, signing a petition, adapting your consumption habits, or right now — simply staying at home — these little acts really do add up when enough of us step up.
So don’t drive yourself mad. Don’t sink into a depression at the state of the world. And take care of your own needs. But don’t become hardened or cynical either. Don’t quit caring altogether. Do what you can to help the causes which call out to you personally, but respect your own personal capacities and limits too.
Do you consider yourself an activist or an active member of a cause you care about? How do you balance this side of yourself with your mental health and need for self-care? Please share your story in the comments!