Being an activist takes bravery. It can be frightening to fight for social change, challenge the status quo, or intentionally expand your network. Lately I’ve been thinking of the “performance anxiety” I often experience when I step up for justice (including every time I write and publish a post on here). The fear of “doing it wrong” that can paralyze, keep us from even trying. Knowing how common this fear is, I mourn all of the potentially transformative actions that are lost because of it.
Fear of F**king Up
As I’ve written before, we cannot let the potential discomfort of “messing up” keep us from making moves. Instead we can embrace our inevitable mistakes as part of the process, a way to our build strength as freedom fighters.
The tendency to avoid action rather than risk errors is related to PERFECTIONISM, a characteristic of White Supremacy Culture outlined in Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups, by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun. My socialization as a white person was certainly effective in this area, and I know how perfectionism can cripple me. One of the descriptors Jones and Okun give to perfectionism is “making a mistake is confused with being a mistake, doing wrong with being wrong.” No wonder we are afraid to take risks that could end in failure! No wonder we judge others.
As we seek to mitigate the harmful aspects of our perfectionism, we can look to the antidotes the authors offer, including: “develop a learning organization, where it is expected that everyone will make mistakes and those mistakes offer opportunities for learning; create an environment where people can recognize that mistakes sometimes lead to positive results; [and] separate the person from the mistake.”
I know the things that hold us back from action encompass more than just our perfectionism. Still, I hope that naming it is helpful as you take a good hard look at what you have and have not done to create more justice in the world and why?
Because we are capable of making a deeper impact.
Pondering the Protest
This Saturday, January 20, is the second annual Women’s March on Asheville. That day, I will have the distinct honor of attending the march as a reporter for the righteous and totally rockin’ JMPRO TV community channel. I am excited that City Council member Sheneika Smith is one of the scheduled speakers. Click here to read excerpts from her powerful remarks at Monday’s MLK Day Peace Rally.
My regular readers may remember my post after last year’s Women’s Marches, “On Marches and Intersectionality,” which dealt with the deep disconnect between white women and women of color in terms of understanding the context and history of the struggle and the roles we all play in it. That post got a lot of response, in many cases from white women who were more fully considering those perspectives for the first time. Today I wonder: how have their behaviors shifted since then?
I am also wondering what has exactly changed in our community as a direct result of last year’s Women’s March on Asheville. As I think about attending as a community reporter, a question on my mind for marchers is, “What have you done over the past year that has made a difference regarding these issues?” Followed by, “What will you be doing differently this year?”
Make a Plan
My hope is that people who get inspired at the march will continue to use that energy all year round – ideally in measurable, strategic ways. Towards this, I’d like to share a tool with you, a self-guided online workshop called Create Your Personal Action Plan, which was created by Ashley Cooper to help with the process of getting specific about the social change work you can commit to. If you make a plan, share it with someone who can help keep you accountable to your goals, increasing your chances of success.
May we bravely use our power in positive ways.
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