**edit: after writing this piece I found Yomi Adegoke’s “We need to rethink our ‘pics or it didn’t happen’ approach to activism” piece for Vogue which is absolutely brilliant and essential reading on engagement and mental health for black people and which perfectly expresses what I briefly alluded to regarding Instagram activism – please read it here https://www.vogue.co.uk/arts-and-lifestyle/article/performative-grief-online **
**edit: I provided a brief personal experience at the top of this primarily for context, not to take the discussion away from the issue at hand – I hope it comes across this way but if you have any constructive criticism about this please let me know.
Last week I took part in a ‘Act For Change’ campaigning workshop as part of my work as a ChangeMaker with 42nd Street. We talked about the importance of self care and maintaining boundaries and I felt reassured about my own struggles with burn-out and the emotional vulnerability that comes with engaging with emotionally charged issues. When it comes to being open about my mental health and advocating for greater accessibility to support and awareness I’ve often found myself feeling completely mentally drained and useless to anyone, including myself. And it’s usually because I’ve failed to have vital boundaries in place whilst relentlessly pouring all of my emotional energy into being vulnerable and advocating for something that feels deeply personal. After the huge spike in awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement, following the horrific murder of George Floyd on 25th May, the importance of having those conversations surrounding self care within activism feels all the more relevant.
If you’re struggling with finding the balance between engaging and taking time in order to mentally recharge, you’re not alone. And you’re not a bad person. Our feeds are, rightly, filled with emotionally demanding content and we are all encouraged to use our platforms to promote awareness and avoid switching off. But we should all distinguish between ‘switching off’ and having healthy boundaries. Taking some time to not go on your phone, to not share every infographic on your newsfeed, to breathe and focus on your personal needs is vital to both your own wellbeing and your capacity to contribute to a cause. And the Black Lives Matter movement, which has been gaining momentum for years, needs us functioning enough to engage long term – this can’t be a spike of engagement with no follow up. I personally failed, upon reflection, to do the work I could’ve done to continue to engage with the Black Lives Matter movement due to emotional burn out in the past – I failed to create boundaries and therefore began to disengage from an issue I really cared about and had been advocating for. It’s a part of privilege to be able to do this and I’m aiming to do better going forward. A brilliant article I’ve found really helpful surrounding this issue is Advocacy and Self Care by Nova Reid on Restless Magazine which I’d encourage everyone to read – she discusses the topic brilliantly and has lots of helpful advice to share. Try to implement the boundaries and self care practices Nova discusses in the article and remember to reach out to friends and family if you’re struggling. And remember you can make a difference without having to perform it on Instagram – your activism doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. You can contribute by choosing where you choose to shop, what you choose to read, the way you stand beside others within your educational or work spaces/your community. Put the work in, use your platform for good, be reflective and conscious of your actions. And take time to breathe and know you’re enough, even when the world feels like it’ll never listen/change.