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Monday, February 23, 2015

Activism and Self-Care by Kyla!


So, maybe you just bought your first rainbow printed item and are brand spankin’ new to the world of activism, if so, yay! This is such an exciting time and I applaud you for taking whichever steps you’ve taken to better the world. Or, maybe you’ve been immersed in the wonderful world of activism for quite a while and you ain’t leavin’ any time soon. No matter where you are in your activism journey I’m here to give you a gentle pat on the back and remind you to treat yo’ self!
The year I was introduced to feminism was life changing. I wanted to talk about it and think about it and read about ALL. THE. TIME, and it was awesome. But to be honest, by summer I was burned out. And I felt bad about it. I saw feminist news pieces on my tumblr feed and scrolled by without reading, I didn’t engage in controversial conversations and I let a few offensive comments fly by without any word from me. What did this mean? How could I abandon the cause when I had practically just started? Whenever this happened I felt simultaneously guilty and relieved that I didn’t have to engage in another conversation that left me feeling hopeless and maybe even attacked. A few months prior I would have walked through the gates of Mordor to have a conversation about feminism, what the heck happened? I had poured everything I had into activism and honey, mama needed a refill. Good news is I’m back to talking about feminism in addition to some other great topics just as much as I was before, only better because I’m respecting my own mental health. Below are a few gems that I remind myself of on a frequent basis.

1. Choose your battles
Your personal safety and mental health are priority #1 to consider before engaging in any type of activism. It does not make you a “bad activist” to opt out of a situation you don’t feel spiritually, emotionally or physically up to partaking in. This can mean letting someone else take the lead in a conversation, choosing a form of activism that feels a little more low impact (i.e suggesting a website or book to check out) or simply mentally acknowledging the moment and going on with your day. It is completely, 100%, up to you how you choose to engage or if you engage in all.

2. You do NOT have to talk to people who are mean to you
Conversations can get heated, it’s normal. Is it good heat or bad heat? Are you feelin’ the burn? Idk where I was going with that but my point is that you do not have to continue to speak with someone who is attacking you. If someone is calling you names or undermining your identity, leave. Similarly, if a person is simply not open to hearing you, it is not your job to make them listen, if a conversation starts to feel unproductive it’s ok to end it. It’s ok to end a conversation anytime you want, or to choose not to start one at all. Personally I choose not to engage in conversations about sexuality with most of my family unless they bring it up first. This change is complicated but has been crucial to my general happiness.

3. Stay updated on the awesome things happening in your area of interest
Activism involves a lot of conversations about things that are going wrong and how to change them, which is super important. It is equally important to remind ourselves about the things that are going right. Activists create a lot of change but sometimes they don’t get to see the results and it can feel like nothing is happening. Remind yourself of a conversation you had with a friend that you felt went really well, or read an article that highlights an achievement of a group you identify with. Change happens and presents itself in all sorts of ways!

4. Set boundaries. Set them. Set. Boundaries.
Setting personals boundaries is something that’s going to look different for everyone. Basically these are things you decide to do, or not do based on your knowledge of yourself and what you need to do maintain your emotional health. Choosing when and where to engage in activism as discussed above are both great ways to set boundaries. The best and hardest thing I have ever done has been choosing not to use Facebook as a personal platform for activism. Social media can be an awesome way to reach people, but for me it wasn’t healthy. I would engage in a lengthy conversation on facebook about a tough topic for hours and regardless of how long it lasted it would consume my mental energy throughout the day. It was hard for me to say my piece and move on, I wanted some type of satisfaction that I was never going to get on Facebook. It’s easier for people to forget they’re still talking to a person on social media even though it’s through a computer and conversations quickly turned defensive and hurtful. Of course, this is not true for everybody. Some of the most impacting information is found on social media and it’s a great tool that has opened many opportunities. However, I feel that the skills I bring to the table as an activist are better suited in other areas and I choose to focus them there instead. This is a boundary I chose to set for myself and only you can decide what will work for you.

So there you have it! Remember, these are only a few ways to treat yo’ self! Leave your own ideas and methods in the comment section.