This may be one of those cases where I’m over-explaining. But I prefer to be crystal clear so, since this is a matter of some sensitivity to me, I’ll dish the details. And hopefully I won’t get so lofty that you’ll want to barf all over your keyboard.
Since I talk a lot about changing the attitudes of women – and since I want to encourage any and all of my awesome readers to do the same – I want to give you some background on my philosophy of activism.
An ex-boyfriend became frustrated with me when he realized I didn’t want to change the world in the same way that he did. His was the visible-action, large-view, hit-’em-where-it-hurts method. He wanted protests and petitions and phone calls to congress. He was a traditional activist.
And, for a while, I was unable to articulate why I couldn’t engage in that method of expression myself. I mean, if you want change, you’d better get out there and be public about it, right? Tell onlookers, the media, the government, and anyone else who’s tuned in exactly what you think. Loudly and utilizing hand-written signage. That’s how it’s done, that’s how it’s always been done. And although I wasn’t afraid to do it, I knew it wasn’t my way. And I didn’t figure out what my way was until long after I’d ended it with this man, so he may still think that I’m a spineless coward.
Much like dentistry, airplane piloting, and road construction, public activism is something I’m glad other people want to do. Some folks feel potent and passionate and driven when campaigning hard for the issues that stir their souls, and I am seriously so glad. I’m grateful to those who brim with optimism and energy and the desire to kick change into gear by any means necessary. They make things happen through their willingness to declare their beliefs publicly. Often they are unsung heroes, but I’ll sing a little tune in their honor right here. These people do, in fact, rock.
For me, though, it just doesn’t work. Chalk it up to a need for instant gratification, or Gen X impatience, or anything you like, but I want to see and feel the impact of my actions. I don’t enjoy craft fairs selling wares I can’t afford – I’d rather go to a flea market where I can buy everything. I don’t read Vogue, which caters to a far more informed and wealthy woman than I’ll ever be – I’d rather read StyleWatch and use my own creativity to knock off its accessible outfits. And I don’t campaign for body image issues by lobbying Congress or sending endless letters to magazine editors – I’d rather work within the circle of people whose lives I can touch. Directly.
Affecting the people you can touch directly is simple, rewarding, and lasting. Just one well-timed compliment can cause someone to open like a flower. Reaching out to someone who already trusts you reinforces that trust and creates safety. The simple act of listening reminds people that they are valued and cared for and supported and loved. And by working within your personal circle, you can not only witness the influence of your actions, but perpetuate that influence through repetition.
Simple, rewarding, and lasting.
If I start by being kind to myself, and then extend that kindness to the wonderful people in MY life, and then encourage THEM to do the same, isn’t it feasible to assume that meaningful change is possible? Not vast, immediate, earth-shattering change, but subtle, vital, and potentially permanent change. That’s what I want. That’s my way.
And part of it is that I have limited energy and am unwilling to put any of my meager supply towards pushing for change that I cannot see. As I’ve said, I admire those who are moved to protest in public or voice their concerns on a larger scale. But to me, an anxious introvert, it just feels like yelling into a well. And I realize that could be considered selfish and lazy on a certain level. But I know my limits and must work within them. When I do that, I’m happy and successful. When I don’t, I suffer. And willfully introducing suffering into my own life is just no good. It goes against the whole “being kind to myself” deal.
I wanted to explain this because I’ve realized that I advocate “spreading the love” pretty damn frequently, and people might want to know why. But also because anyone who reads this blog is officially part of my circle, and I don’t think I’ve ever bothered to mention that. I am beyond thrilled to have expanded that circle to include you lovely, brilliant, supportive, amazing women.
I’ve mentioned that helping women recognize and accept their own beauty has become an important goal to me. I could really use a hand, if any of you feel up to it. Fighting body image dysmorphia can be a guerrilla war that we wage together. Because it’s a quiet, insidious, deeply personal issue that doesn’t respond well to legislation. And although I’ll sure as hell sign petitions for related causes, and speak publicly if asked, and vocally support campaigns toward overarching change, I know I’ll feel most effective and valuable in this war when I witness the affects of my small actions on the people in my life.
That’s what I want. That’s my way. And if it’s yours, too, welcome to the battlefield.
Originally posted 2008-09-08 06:11:00.