Social media has created an immediacy to everything we do. We are always liking and scrolling and double tapping things in a near constant stream. Everyone knows what’s going on with everyone all the time. Your online friends know what’s happening with you before your immediate family. With this comes a certain pressure to perform our lives rather than live them. People act the way they think they’re supposed to rather than being the people that they really are because of the fear of backlash. We see it happen to celebrities all the time. Taylor Swift didn’t go to the Women’s March and was immediately attacked for not being a feminist. This happens and is particularly true when it comes to social activism. How many times have you heard someone say “you’re not really a feminist because…” or “you don’t really support that cause because…” and then provide an example of absence. You weren’t at this protest. You didn’t sign this petition. You haven’t done enough.
The truth is, you don’t have to be on all the time. I am a feminist, an lgbtq+ rights activist, a left wing, pro choice, anti fascist, who supports social welfare programs, environmental accountability and support for survivors. While I am all of these things and many more, I can’t play those roles all the time, and neither can you. Sometimes you need to take a break. While you might feel the urge to educate and inform at all times, the weight of an entire movement does not rest on your shoulders. You can ignore it sometimes. Microaggressions are a huge part of all hate groups, but there are so many of us fighting these fights (and there are so many of them) that every once in a while an individual can take off their activist mask and be a real person. Put on your sunglasses and headphones and blend into the background. Regularly taking on social issues is draining, and it’s okay to not always be able to. This isn’t your main job.
In the long schedule of protests and sit ins and debates, take a day for yourself. Get dressed up and go out with your friends. See a movie. Go out for dinner. Paint your nails and do your hair, if that’s for you. You’re allowed to enjoy yourself and it doesn’t make you less of an activist.
For the small moments, practicing self-care is key. Self-care might seem like something that is specifically for people living with mental health issues, but it’s actually for everybody. Taking a couple of minutes to unwind can make a huge difference in any day. Meditating for five minutes to achieve some quiet in the chaos can actually change your brain. It helps you improve your focus and memory, as well as reducing immediate anxiety. Read a book or get a cup of coffee. Take a moment for yourself. You are important.
Remember: you can’t save the world if you’re being crushed under the weight of it.