Being an activist is hard work, constantly fighting against seemingly insurmountable odds, it’s easy to get discouraged. With the overwhelming wrongs and injustices in this world, what do we do when we feel we have nothing left to give?
How do we find the strength for activism? With the overwhelming multitude of wrongs and injustices in this world, where do we even start? How do we keep fighting when our efforts seem like a drop in the ocean? What do we do when we feel we have nothing left to give?
While this post is geared towards vegans interested in animal activism, it can just as equally speak to non-vegans and vegans alike interested in any form of activism.
In sharing my experience of bearing witness to animals bound for slaughter at a 24-hour vigil with Toronto Pig Save, I’ve had a lot of people comment that they’re just not strong enough to attend such an event or that they wish they had the strength to do so.
This is something I encounter a great deal in my work: the struggle to find strength to speak up for the animals, the strength to not back down when you seem to be the only one fighting, the strength to look into the eyes of a being who you know moments later will have the life drained from them, and despite all of that not give up hope.
Anyone who dedicates themselves to some form of activism knows that burnout and overwhelm are very real. So I thought I’d just share with you some of my tips and recommendations for finding the strength to push forward. [tweet this]
Tip Number One: Harness Your Emotions
When facing the utter insanity of what we do to animals it’s natural to become enraged, heartbroken, disgusted, or any number of strong emotions that can consume us to a point of defeat and inaction. What I try to do in my own activism is use the energy from the anger, the heartbreak, the sadness, or whatever emotion I’m experiencing to drive me forwards into further action. Painful emotions aren’t inherently bad. They can be effective tools for change when harnessed proactively.
Tip Number Two: See Through Their Eyes [tweet this]
All of us face challenges in our lives and within our activism. One thing that always keeps me going even when I’m fighting my own battles, is putting myself in the place of the animals. No matter what I may be going through or what struggle I’m currently facing, it never fails to dramatically pale in comparison to what they are experiencing. It’s literally a matter of life and death for them and put in that context, my own worries and issues seem less significant. Now this is not to diminish personal struggles, which need to be addressed, but more so to give us perspective when we find ourselves stuck in our own mess.
Tip Number Three: Remember Your Why
This tip actually applies to being vegan in general as well as to activism. When people tell me they are struggling to stay vegan, my number one recommendation is for them to write down why they want to be vegan and keep it on them at all times. It’s so important for us to stay connected to why we’ve chosen this way of life, regardless of what that may be for us. This is where actions like the Toronto Pig Save vigils are so powerful—they literally forge that connection with the very beings we are trying to save. Of course your why may be something altogether different, but whatever it is, write it down or find a picture or video that captures that emotion for you and keep it on hand when you need motivation.
Tip Number Four: Acknowledge the Victories [tweet this]
It can often seem like we’re fighting a losing battle. For every person who “gets it” another handful seem to arise with hateful comebacks. It’s easy to get discouraged and give up entirely. Something I find essential and that I myself am not terribly good at, is being sure to acknowledge the victories we do have. This is why I started keeping all the testimonials and messages from people who have gone vegan from my videos. It’s important for us to see that change is happening, even if it’s not as quickly as we’d like. There are people listening and sometimes you don’t even now the seeds you may have planted.
A great way to acknowledge the victories is to visit, or better yet volunteer, at a farmed animal sanctuary. Being around survivors of the animal products industry and seeing them living free is so heartwarming and always drives me to fight for those not so fortunate. Plus, lending your time to help at these organizations is in and of itself a form of activism.
Tip Number Five: Take Care of Yourself
Personally this is my least favorite tip and one that I honestly am not terribly skilled at. But, it is important for us to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves, otherwise we can’t be of any use to the animals. I’ve said this before in my video on whether medication is vegan, but it’s like what they tell you on an airplane: put your mask on first before helping others. Of course if you’re anything like me, you may try to just hold your breath and mask up the entire 747 before slapping on your own.
I hope that these tips have been helpful and that you enjoyed a little more laid-back of a nugget. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Did you find this video useful? Do you have any tips of your own for getting and staying active? Let me know!
— Emily Moran Barwick