These days when the world seems to have gone mad and I still find myself holding on to hope, I wonder if I’ve gone too far in ridding my life of anxiety. I know this sounds crazy, but hear me out. Anxiety gave me a lot of energy and a lot to worry about; it gave me things to fix and there are a lot of things to fix in the world right now. Lessening my anxiety means I’m not trapped in an endless loop of fearing for the future and it often feels like there should be a place for fear in this time we live in. Fear, at least for me, was a great motivator so I’ve struggled with whether or not I’m less productive as an activist without it as a catalyst.
I’m still politically active, but in a very different way. My actions are less performative, more authentic to who I am and are more considered. There are still issues I’m deeply interested in and causes I hold dear, but I’m not reacting with uncontrolled energy as I used to. This makes me wonder if I’ve succumbed to the numbness of fascism, or if I’m just more thoughtful about how I try to make change in the world. I still use my pen, poster board and pocketbook to support the causes I care about, but there’s no frenzied energy propelling my actions or feelings of desperation behind them now. I’m not acting to try to assuage my anxiety any longer; I’m trying to make change consciously.
I believe that we as a culture suffer from many forms of mental illness: racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia and a preoccupation with violence, to name a few. I believe one of the most lasting and far reaching ways I can make change is to work on my own inner cultural mental illnesses and the ‘how’ and ‘why’ they manifest in my life. If I can’t make these changes within myself, how can I expect to help bring about these changes in the world? As I tear at the roots of these cultural mental illnesses inside of me, I’m becoming more aware of the energy I put out into the world. I want the energy I put out in the world to be positive and constructive. In the past, I’ve often found myself feeling like I’m screaming into the void and just trying to release anxious energy to make myself feel like I’m part of the change that needs to happen. This left me feeling drained of positive energy because I was only putting anxious energy out into the world. We don’t need anymore of that because fueling that anxious energy is fear and fear is the underlying symptom to all of the societal diseases we suffer from.
I’m more thoughtful now of how I show up in the world as an activist. I still use my voice, but I try to use it in a controlled manner. I’m more thoughtful about the issues I lend my energy to because I know I can’t solve all of the world’s problems by myself. Anxiety made me think I had to try solve every issue by myself to be a worthy human being, but it’s simply not possible. I know there are other committed activists working diligently on the issues that are still of concern to me, but aren’t nearest to my heart and I hope they know that I am working hard on the issues that resonate most with me so that they can focus on their top issues. It’s taken me a long time to get to this place of feeling like I can still be productive without anxiety fueling every thought and action I have. I’m maturing into a more conscious activist, I hope, because I’m more mindful of my choices and not seeking to persuade others that I’m a good person for being an activist.
Conscious activism is hard. Social media makes it so easy to be a performative activist, but I often feel like it’s just an echo chamber for anxiety and fear and that’s a place I don’t want to inhabit any longer. I don’t want to be a reactionary activist anymore. I want to be conscious about the seeds of change I plant. If my activism is based in fear, anxiety and unconscious reactionary behavior, I’m adding to the problems the world needs to solve and that’s the exact opposite of what I want or intend. I’m under no illusion that there will be moments when I miss the great motivational fuel that anxiety provided me, but I hope those moments come farther and farther apart until I’m fully aware that my conscious, anxiety-free action is what the world really needs.