You should know what you’re signing up for when you open up your heart and remove society’s numbing blinders.
I majored in International Development Studies at university.
My focus was generally on gender equality and religious studies, but I also felt very passionately about activism and participating in organized action to hopefully change my society for the better.
My Activism course truly turned on its head the way I looked at social action and my position in the world.
It was a tremendously eye-opening experience, and for that reason, it was also an incredibly painful one.
Because when we take off our rose coloured glasses and see the world for what it truly is, it’s nothing short of a deeply shocking sight.
Maybe you already consider yourself an activist. Maybe you’re interested in knowing a little more about what being an activist really means. Maybe you’re questioning your role as an activist, and wondering if it would even matter if you just stopped doing anything.
Regardless of where you are in your journey to change the world, there some honest truths that a person needs to know if they’re going to commit to caring about the world.
These truths often threaten our identity and purpose as advocates for change. If we aren’t vigilant enough against them, we will be defeated by them. We rarely talk about these truths, when we really should to so, early and often.
So let’s have that conversation now.
You don’t have the capacity to fight for every single cause.
Let’s be honest with each other — the world is a very broken place.
There is no shortage of valid causes to fight for, oppression to fight against, or discrimination to protest.
You can support any and every cause. But you can only actively participate in a select few. Otherwise, the quality of your focus and attention becomes so diluted that your action loses most of its effectiveness.
Oppression has been defeated time and time again, not by floaters, but by loyal and committed individuals who put their all at the time into that singular cause. Because that’s what it takes to make a difference: giving it all you have, and then some.
The more you delve into the world of advocacy and activism, the more overwhelmed you’re going to feel. And that’s okay.
Because the world is truly, truly broken in so many awful ways and it will literally break your heart when you start diving into what that looks like.
You will carry an abundance of guilt along the way.
Fighting for the causes I care for often has me questioning my existence in the world, feeling guilty about my white privilege in a 1st world country, and has me feeling like the most selfish person on the planet forever wanting anything more than I already had.
And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Because if you don’t allow yourself to lean into the discomfort of the brokenness, you will instead give yourself permission to be apathetic and do absolutely nothing.
Letting the abundance of oppression and discrimination overwhelm and trouble you to the foundation of your humanity is your very first, most and important, step to becoming an activist.
From there, do some self-reflection. Know that every cause is worthy, so you don’t need to feel guilty for the causes you choose to hold a flag for.
Choosing our main causes as activists is an incredibly personal decision, and no one has the right to tell you that the cause which speaks loudest to your soul is a waste of time, or that you should be focusing on something else.
Consider your life experiences and your unique skill set in this decision. Be intentional, follow your heart, and identify the causes that you have been built and purposed to fight for.
There is no “activist” without “active.”
There’s a reason it’s called activism — the concept fundamentally requires action.
Keep in mind as you move forward that you can’t change the world in a day. Like most things, it will take small, positive steps of forward motion, any positive steps, to get incrementally closer to overcoming the obstacles towards your cause’s successful fulfillment.
Think about it: if you want to write a novel, you can’t draft up 80,000 words in 24 hours. Nor can you exercise for one day and then expect to win a triathlon over athletes who train every day. Those are simply impossibilities.
You must grind and work and keep yourself motivated, step by step, to reach the results you want.
I’ll be honest with you: odds are you may not see the results of the change you are so passionately advocating for in your lifetime.
This is a sombre reality, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth the fight.
Every little bit of progression counts. Tell that to yourself in the times when you feel you’re not making a difference.
Because just by showing up, you are contributing to that progression.
You will be broken, time and time again.
The world will continue to hurt. People will continue to hurt other people. It will seem like things are just going completely downhill, and all that awaits is bleak darkness.
Some days, you’ll just want to give up completely.
And I get it.
Know you’re not alone in that sentiment.
It’s hard to watch all your efforts get crushed by hate, ignorance and the unjust imbalance of power in our society.
But you’ve got to stick with it. The world you and future generations deserve depends on those of us who care enough to show up and be emotionally destroyed over and over again.
Prepare to be devastated. Prepared to be infuriated. Prepare to stew in the injustice of the world, and feel it run through your veins every day of your life.
But don’t let it break you entirely.
Use it as fuel to keep moving forward with more determination and a stronger spirit than ever before.
So you can cry all the tears you have until your well is completely dry… but don’t give up.
Because we the world need you.
We’re depending on you.
Without you, there is no hope.
So please keep fighting for us.