In November of 2016, I attended the Women’s March in my hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina, with a friend and our mothers. It was the first time my friend’s mother had participated in anything she considered to be activism. Women across the country (especially white women; Black women have a long, productive, courageous history of leading activism) were having that same experience of being motivated by fear to join a demonstration for the first time in their lives.
With Saturday’s election results, it can be tempting to see our bubblegum pink pussyhats as relics representing a moment in history. Except… today, women will still get paid a fraction of what their male counterparts make, a fraction that changes size depending on the color of the woman’s skin. Today, women will still be harassed at work and assaulted at home.
Today, Black citizens will still feel dread when they see a police cruiser and Black transgender women will still have to watch their backs with a fierceness as they continue to be among our most physically endangered citizens. Today, nearly 500 children are still in ICE detention centers while activists on the ground literally search village to village looking for their parents.
I say none of this to take away from the celebration and joy any of us are feeling at the election results. Theresa and I celebrated with ice cream and a walk along the river, relishing the feeling of the sun and the sights of families and friends taking time together.
I say this because the relief many of us feel in the wake of the election results can easily come with a sense of being relieved of the responsibility each of us holds in making this country what it could be: A place with true equality and freedom, a place where access to food, healthcare, safety, and opportunity aren’t contingent upon the lottery of one’s birth.
Even more powerful in stopping us in our activist tracks than relief, though, is overwhelm. So I offer these actions of everyday activism as a reminder that it doesn’t always take extraordinary actions to build toward extraordinary change. Often, change comes one connection, one act of defiance, one moment of caring at a time.
Pick one to focus on today. And then do it again tomorrow. And again.
Because self-judgment and self-deprecation sap the energy we need to do the rest of the work…
- Practice loving your body. Action: Look in the mirror, bonus points if you do it while undressed, smile, and say, “I love my body.”
- Practice actively rejecting the gremlin voices of self-criticism. Action: Notice the thought and say, “I choose not to believe that.”
- Work to reframe self-care from an earned luxury to a required recharge. Action: Watch this video then make a list of self-care actions to pick from at least three times a week.
Because we can only change the world to the extent that we open to changing ourselves.
- Make regular time for quiet introspection. Action: Experiment with journaling, meditation, walking/running/biking without music or podcasts, whatever helps you notice your internal dialogue more fully. Bring discernment to what you hear which will help when you…
- Challenge a deeply held belief. Action: Notice an idea that feels absolute to you. Maybe it’s a family story, in which case find a family member or family members who you can ask about it. Maybe it’s a piece of history, in which case you can do research online or find a book that might challenge your understanding. Maybe it’s an issue that falls along political divides, in which case you can find a reputable thinker who holds an opposite opinion to try and understand that perspective.
- Practice active listening. Action: Engage in conversations in which you commit to noticing your own thoughts about what the other person is saying and/or formulating what you want to say next and letting those go so that you can more fully just listen. This may create gaps in the conversation. That’s okay. Bonus points for asking questions that take you and your conversational partner deeper into their perspective.
Because “united we stand” isn’t just a pretty sentiment but a fact of our inevitable interconnection, whether we like each other or not.
- Practice noticing us/them thinking and redirecting toward just Us. Action: When you notice any thought that categorizes people as a “them,” perhaps due to politics, religion, lifestyle, sexual or gender identity, or ethnicity, remind yourself of something all humans have in common, like a wish for safety, a need for food, or the fact that we all breathe in and out from the same massive pocket of air trapped in our atmosphere.
- Smile at strangers. This, of course, requires you put a little extra umph into it when you’re wearing a mask but Tyra Banks hasn’t been training us on smizing all these years just for the runway.
- Practice empathy. Action: The next time someone cuts you off in traffic or tailgates you, make up a story that would make you feel okay about their driving. For example, they’re distracted and rushing because they just got a call that their pregnant partner went into labor.
- Practice preferred pronouns, even – especially – when the person isn’t around. Action: Add your preferred pronouns to your email signature and social media profiles and practice asking others theirs as a part of a standard introduction.
- Send snail mail. Action: Write a postcard or notecard describing your day or sharing something you found delightful or inspiring or beautiful lately. Bonus points for going even older school by including a clipping or print-out of something that you think the person will enjoy reading.
And because what’s the point without beauty and joy and art and play?
- Practice random acts of kindness and beauty. For inspiration: There is a fairy garden along the sidewalk in our old neighborhood. Theresa bought several figurines at a dollar store and we would sneak a new one into the garden every so often.
- Do things that are creative for their own sake. For inspiration: Collage, paint, make birdhouses, arrange your clothes differently, cook with intention, assemble a model, doodle on your jeans, dye your hair. Bonus points for public acts of creativity like yard signs with funny or inspiring messages or social media posts aimed at adding joy to others’ feeds.
- Dance and sing with abandon. For inspiration: My NSFW YouTube playlist. For bonus points: Invite a friend or a few to a video-based dance party. I did this every Friday for the first couple of months of quarantine, 15 minute dance parties on Fridays, and it was just the thing to give us all a boost of energy.
Much like the work of moving toward our biggest, baddest selves, the work of creating our biggest, baddest country is one with no clear timeline and, let’s be honest, no real likelihood of ever being complete. Take the steps not in hopes of that moment of euphoria as you cross a finish line but, rather, for the certainty of the feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment that gently infuse lives of forward momentum.
Coaching is a powerful tool for finding modes of self-honoring forward momentum, and moving past the the limiting thoughts that get in our way. The Bigger Badder Crew is your community of folks doing the same.