Feeling Weary Post-Women's March? Focus On Developing Your Activism

Protest is an endurance sport. Here are the best ways to make this movement more than a moment.
01/27/2017 10:54 am ET Updated Jan 27, 2017

Okay, we did it. I mean, WE DID IT! We showed up, and not just by the hundreds, or thousands, or hundreds of thousands. We showed up by the freakin’ millions! Around the world! Even Antarctica! Yay, us!

The unbelievable beautifulness of this amazingly unforgettable experience of shared global sisterhood resistance is thrumming through us like a powerful energizing and urgent force, right?

I don’t know about you, but I felt completely numb on Saturday night after the March. On Sunday, I felt like I’d been run over by a truck. On Monday, I tried not to look at Facebook because it was making me ill. On Tuesday, I went to bed feeling like I gained a six-pack from all my dry heaving over the news. On Wednesday, my brain finally started functioning, only to regularly break down trying to process the new world of “alternative truths.” On Thursday, I could no longer put off writing about my experience. I stared at my blank computer screen and prayed for inspiration.

The best way to describe how I felt after the Women’s March? Like I had gorged on an entire pizza but I had to get back to work, so I chugged three cups of coffee to combat the food coma. And then people kept waving delicious pizza in front of my nose and I was trying unsuccessfully to turn my head away while feeling confused about not wanting more pizza. I felt bloated, foggy, and dizzy. I was tired, cranky, upset, barely able to function on a basic level, and ashamed of my desire to crawl under a rock forever.

Ryan Gosling is inspiring.
Ryan Gosling is inspiring.

Finally, I admitted it out loud: I thought I was supposed to feel empowered. Instead, I was feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. So I decided to do what I always do when I don’t know what to do. 1) Read a bunch of stuff and 2) Ask someone who knows.

“How To #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind” is a post with some great advice. It suggests distancing oneself from toxic news, focusing energy on one or two issues, making things fun, and practicing self-care. For me, it was a good reminder that I need to put on my own oxygen mask before I can help others. Breathing is key!

I also stumbled upon the Conscious Competence Ladder. According to this model of learning, we are moving from Unconscious Incompetence to Conscious Incompetence and it is painful. As the process explains, we used to be blissfully unaware of what we didn’t know. Now we have an understanding of what is at stake and how ill-equipped we may be for the task ahead. The good news is, with time, feedback, and regular practice, we can move into Conscious Competence. And one day, when we are so kickass that we do kickass things on autopilot, we will have reached Unconscious Competence. Something to look forward to!

Lastly, I reached out to an organizer of our Women’s March NYC chapter, Lily Nussbaum, for additional advice. What does Lily think newbies like us ought to know?

“We were blown away by the number of first-time marchers,” Lily told me. “New activists breathe fresh air into the work! We just want so badly for everyone to stay involved.”

“Start small,” she said, noting that we are at the beginning of a long game. Lily recommends following the 10 Actions 100 Days on the Womens’ March website. She also suggests sticking to reliable non-hyperpartisan news sources such Glen Kessler of The Washington Post, Reuters, The Atlantic, and The Guardian (UK). Anytime you come across a verifiable nightmare policy, “Call your representative. Write another postcard,” Lily urges. “Calling representatives really does help, as tedious as it can be.” They are small steps, she assures, but in large quantity, they will make an impact.

I mulled over these ideas, and dozens more tips from recommended resources. The Indivisible Guide. Sister Districts. The Resistance Manual. Flippable. Countable. Rise Stronger. 5 Calls. I watched videos, read posts, and signed up for a postcard-writing workshop, looking for answers.

Here is the unexpected conclusion I came to: Newbies like us need to shift our thinking from saving the world to developing ourselves as activists. Once we change our perspective, we will be able to see all our actions as valuable, no matter how small, because they will build skills that will lead us to Conscious Competence. The most important thing we can do is stay in the game and get better at it.

To that end, here are some steps I think we can take:

Stay selectively informed.

So many resources have emphasized the danger of getting swept away with too many inputs. Find a small handful of trusted news sources and stick to them. This will help us save time and energy for the real fight while building our personal knowledge base. Read history books and learn how our democracy has evolved. Lily recommends The People’s History of the United States.

Self-care is critical.

And I don’t just mean a spa day or a Gilmore Girls marathon. Take time to feed our souls by connecting with the issues we care about. This will fuel our inspiration to fight for those very same issues later.

Experiment.

Try calling. Try protesting. Spend time with local activism groups. Volunteer to organize an event. Investigate different causes and organizations to see which ones resonate most. We must not get paralyzed over whether we are doing “enough of the right thing.” We must take the time to learn what works best for us and then apply that knowledge like a badass.

Do a few small things every day.

Keep at it. Not necessarily because we think it will work (it may not), but because exercising those activist muscles will make us stronger while cementing the actions into a natural part of our regular routine.

Sign up for in-person meetings, workshops, marches, and political events. 

Show up. Speak up. Make new friends. Get into heated discussions. Develop our activist tribe and support system. Learn from experienced people such as Lily. Try to speak with representatives face-to-face. We spend too much time behind screens. In-person time is crucial for personal growth, and it will help us network while giving us the confidence to be bold when the situation calls for it.

Let’s stay activated #PostWomensMarch. But instead of obsessing over whether each step of our long march is accomplishing something, let’s remember that showing up counts. It can be enough for now. We’ll learn. We’ll improve. Our organizers are getting savvier. The news is getting savvier. The general public is getting savvier. Our next action will be better. Our next effort will be smarter. We’ll only get more effective from here.

We can do this. We are doing this.

Hey, newbie — You got this. Stay awesome. ❤

What are you doing #PostWomensMarch? Let me know in the comments or send me a tweet (@ activatednyc).

Originally posted on Medium, January 27, 2017.

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