Sometimes, I wake up in the morning with this burning feeling in my gut, like I need to go out and do something to change the world right away. Usually, I’ll spend the first few moments of my morning on days like this looking at the ceiling, trying to think of how I can transform the world dramatically for the better. And usually, I can’t think of anything, and give up. Changing society can’t be done single-handedly, protests require a big group of people, and getting laws made or changed takes a good deal of effort and persistence
Micro-activism is a way of getting involved in making your little corner of the world better day at a time.
So lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what to do on those mornings when I burn with ambition to help without getting discouraged by the immensity of the world’s problems. My solution? Micro-activism! To me, micro-activism is a way of getting involved in making your little corner of the world better day at a time, through little actions. It’s taking your world-view, and trying to use it to shape your own life and actions. Micro-activism can satisfy the urge to go out and change the world, by allowing you to commit to making the world better one day and interaction at a time.
Micro-activism can come in a lot of forms, but here’s a few that I’ve been trying to incorporate into my daily life.
1. Validate the heck out of everyone.
Although we tend to think of activism as a big project, it’s important to remember that activism can be as simple as making other people feel good! The goal of activism is, at its core, to give people the tools to be empowered and to challenge the institutions that disempower them. One function of marginalization is that it often leads to high rates of depression, low self-esteem, and other problems of self-perception.
You can help combat this as easily as saying, “Hey, I thought your comments in class today were really clever!” or “Damn, Ariana, that painting is incredible!” Throw around compliments like confetti on your birthday. Reminding people around you that they bring something good to the world is a great way to introduce more positivity and self-love into your community, and to lift up people who may need an emotional boost.
Throw around compliments like confetti on your birthday.
2. Ask Questions. About everything.
If you don’t understand the way something works, ask someone who knows. Look up words that you haven’t heard before. Make Google and Siri your new best friends. This goes double for people’s opinions. If you encounter someone who supports a political candidate, law, or idea that you find distasteful, ask them where they come from. Learn what life experiences and ways of thinking led them to their position; listen uncritically.
There’s two activist-y reasons to ask hella questions.
First, the more you know about the world and how it works, the easier it’ll be to deconstruct systems of oppression. You’ll find it easier to navigate institutions if you know how they function, and you’ll be much more capable of challenging a bigoted viewpoint if you know how someone arrived at that opinion.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, you’ll be a more introspective and well-rounded person if you understand more things. Exposing yourself to new knowledge and ideas keeps your brain active, so you’ll be ready to tackle problems when they arrive. Learning more about your world will also help you understand your place in it, and give you the tools to make choices that make you feel good.
Self-care should be every activist’s first priority.
3. Remember to take care of yourself.
I put this one last so that you’ll remember it. Self-care should be every activist’s first priority. You know how on airplanes you’re supposed to put the oxygen mask on yourself before the person next to you? It’s a similar concept with self-care. It’s a lot harder to be someone else’s support system if you’re emotionally running on empty.
And yet, self-care is one of the first things activists tend to overlook when the going gets tough.
It’s easy to start believing that putting your own care first is selfish, or even that your life is so thoroughly submerged in social justice that activism is your self-care. Grappling with societal problems like sexism, racism, and inequality is so important, but it can also put an immense drain on you emotionally and intellectually.
Something I have to remind myself of often is that activism is about lifting all of us up, and that includes me. Learn to make self-care a habit by doing a little something nice for yourself every day. Light a candle and meditate, do some yoga, hit the gym, read a good book, drink a cup of tea, invest in a coloring book, or anything else that brings you a little extra joy. Give yourself permission to take your activist hat off for a few minutes every day to invest in yourself.
At the end of the day, micro-activism is just thinking about what your perfect world looks like, and trying to mimic it a little at a time. Try to think about what values and goals are important to you, and find ways to break them up into little pieces that you can pull out any day of the week. Micro-activism’s a good way to remember that every choice you make matters, and that you have the power to make your world a better place. Now go get ‘em, girl!
Also published on Medium.