Activism is Hard

The USA today is a wreck. I think everyone can agree no matter what side of the political aisle you sit on, there has been a lot of controversy happening in this country. This past Spring gun violence and reform was brought to the nation’s attention because of the numerous mass shootings. The unfortunate deaths of so many has truly weighed heavily on so many people’s hearts, including mine. More recently the overturning of Roe v. Wade, has made people angry and fearful as well. In general, the disconnect in this country has taken a serious toll on the public’s mental health. For me shutting of social media has been something I do a lot of recently. It is overwhelming to go online and see all the political and social awareness posts. While I acknowledge social media advocacy is necessary, I also know I need a break sometimes, just as many others might be feeling. I wanted to write this post not to share what my viewpoints are, but rather discuss why activism is so difficult for our mental health. I know personally I have not been very outspoken on recent issues, and I definitely carry some guilt for not being at the forefront of movements, at least not visibly to other people. However, I also know my beliefs, and I know the mentally I was not ready to speak up. I strongly believe in the power of advocacy and social impact, but each person has to also make decisions for their wellbeing. Many people may not have the privilege of choosing to refrain being involved in social justice, and I totally understand that I am very fortunate to have this privilege. The reality is everyone should have this privilege, and that is a whole other problem in this country. For now, I want to address why some people may refrain from being outspoken and emphasize that the right to take time for your mental health is an acceptable thing. Overall people may not be speaking about social justice issues right away and that is okay because there are a lot of mental aspects to being involved in social change including not knowing the right words, trying to be positive, needing neutrality, and diversity consideration. Many people experience anxiety over finding the right words. I know I also struggle to figure out what to say and how to say it. Of course, we all hear that there are no right words for social change, but hearing this statement is different from believing it. I reiterate that there truly no right or wrong words to say as long as the intention is good, and corrections are made when necessary. However, I know that the worry can be overbearing and make people want to stay silence before speaking out. My best advice is to educate yourself more about the topic to alleviate this anxiety.  Also, if you know someone who feels this way encourage them to have smaller more intimate conversations with those close to them rather than jumping in and blasting words online. Another reason people may not be speaking up about social justice issues is because they are trying to keep a positive outlook. In a world that is scary, it can be easy to cope with the fear of the future by compartmentalizing and believing everything will work out. These are totally valid feelings, but you also have to acknowledge that this mindset is something you can and should work through. Optimism is a good trait, but too much can lead to unrealistic perceptions and hinder real positive social change if too many people depend on it. Additionally, trying to be neutral to not upset anyone is another factor many people are mentally dealing with when considering being involved in activism. Whether it is because you have family with various religious and political opinions, work in a specific environment that you depend on for your livelihood, or simply interact with lots of people, being neutral can seem like the best option to avoid any type of conflict. I get it. But at the end of the day, you need to know where you stand. You definitely don’t have to share your opinion with everyone, but often the choice to remain neutral causes more problems in the long run. It is far more stressful to try and agree with a bunch of people’s perspectives than just saying you don’t feel comfortable discussing your opinions with those that you know your opinion differs from. Finally, diversity is big part in advocacy. Marginalized communities have a significantly more risks in being super involved and participating in rallies and other activities. At the end of the day, people have to consider their safety first and weigh all their options to avoid any backlash or repercussions that would be detrimental to their wellbeing, physically or mentally. The diversity considerations are important, and lots of times people find that because of their given background remaining silent is best for them, so respecting that decision in crucial. Ultimately, there should be no shame in taking a break from activism because there are a lot of mental components in social change including not knowing the words to use, attempting to stay positive, staying neutral, and diversity that people have to be conscious of. Silence is not an indication of not caring. I encourage everyone to take the time they need before speaking out about social issues. Do not feel pressured to make a statement right away. Once an individual is mentally ready, I encourage them to do their own research to form educated opinions and develop connections to resources and campaigns to support. Moving forward, I know I will be working to get even more involved in social justice.