Introverts often think “activism isn’t for me” because it seems so draining or too full of people.
I know from conversations with introverts that it’s not for lack of caring about the problems of the world. They often tell me they want to do something but aren’t sure what to do.
You don’t have to push yourself to go to protests. I like doing that, sometimes, but it’s not for everyone. (Psst, there are behind-the-scenes ways to help the protestors.)
Forget the word “activism” if that helps. Call it “expressing your caring” or “solidarity” or behind-the-scenes support, and that tends to open up your options.
Everyone has valuable and unique strengths to offer. There are ways to incorporate your caring into your daily life including your work life.
To help me share some ideas for you, I’m borrowing wise words from people from many different communities.
Wait, before you jump in to taking in these wise words, set an intention to stay open to guidance and notice when you hit on one small step you’ll take. One step matters, and naturally leads to the right next thing if you let it.
“Where do I fit in as an introvert who cares about social impact?”
Here are a few wise perspectives to help us find a starting place.
Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
~Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South African Anglican cleric, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, known for his work in anti-apartheid activism and Truth and Reconciliation.
Introverts, activism needs you…. Introverts are good at slowing down and thinking deeply, and the details of issues, we’re really good at bringing them out. We’re good at intimate activism…. We’re good at intriguing people…. It doesn’t mean you’ve got to turn into an extrovert and burn out, because that’s no use for anyone, but what it does mean is that you should value the skills and traits you have that activism needs. Whether you’re an extrovert, introvert or ambivert, the world needs you now more than ever.”
~Sarah Corbett, introvert activist. Watch her TEDx talk for great stories and ideas: “Activism Needs Introverts”
Unconditional self-love gives us the space we need to try things out, and make mistakes. Love for our people motivates us to show up bigger and with more clarity than we might if we were just in it for ourselves. And love for our vision of a better future commits us to the long haul.”
~Reva Patwardhan, Dialogue Lab, in her blog post, “The Serenity Prayer of Social Impact”
(Oh this is really inspiring me today!)
Sometimes we think it will just be too hard, or pointless…
And yet, our passion can get louder and stronger than our fear. Rosa Parks was an introvert who simply couldn’t walk away from the issues despite enormous pressure to stay small.
I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”
~ Rosa Parks, lifelong civil rights activist who modeled what she called “Quiet Strength.”
Sometimes the problems just seem “too big.”
A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi, Indian activist who led, with nonviolent civil disobedience, the movement to end British rule over India. (Also an introvert)
Sometimes we don’t see how it relates to our work.
We think it’s all about political work that we have to leave outside of our work day, but our role at work can be the exact right place to start:
To succeed now and in the future, leaders must lead the change they want to see, and if they aren’t already doing so, they must start leading that change right now.”
~Conscious Company Media, on B the Change.
Sometimes we think it’s all about facing conflict, and that feels exhausting and hopeless.
But what if it’s about love and compassion? That’s what you’re great at. Start there:
The battle has only just begun…. This time it isn’t Indians vs Cowboys. No. This time, it is all the beautiful races of humanity together on the same side and we are fighting to replace our fear, with Love. And this time bullets, arrows, and cannonballs won’t save us. The only weapons that are useful in this battle are the weapons of Truth, Faith, and Compassion.”
~Lyla June, musician, poet, anthropologist, educator, community organizer and public speaker, from the Diné Nation (often called Navajo). Quote is from her song All Nations Rise.
Sometimes just hearing the news can drain us and we need to find our grounding again.
I think the importance of doing activist work is precisely because it allows you to give back and to consider yourself not as a single individual who may have achieved whatever but to be a part of an ongoing historical movement.”
~Angela Davis, lifelong civil rights activist, author, academic
I care. I care about it all. It takes too much energy not to care.”
~Lorraine Hansberry, author/playwright of A Raisin in the Sun, civil rights activist, first black female author to have a play on Broadway. (She also said “Never be afraid to sit a while and think.”)
Sometimes we need to come back to our center and realize why we’re doing this.
It’s not about fixing or helping someone else. Our own growth and happiness are unleashed when we face the shadow side of life. That’s been my experience with social justice involvement. It’s the most healing and growthful thing I’ve done.
If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
~Aboriginal activists group, Queensland, Australia, 1970s. (Most famously attributed to Lilla Watson, Indigenous activist, who prefers this quote be attributed to her activist group because it came out of that work.)
The fight against racism is our issue. It’s not something that we’re called on to help People of Color with. We need to become involved with it as if our lives depended on it because really, in truth, they do.”
~Anne Braden, white Southern activist who fought on the front lines for racial justice throughout her life.
Sometimes we just need to decide what is our particular piece of the puzzle to focus on.
Here are some ways to keep it simple.
The whole idea is not to figure out what you should do that will matter, but to make each thing you do reflect the values you want, because we don’t know what’s going to matter in the future.”
~Gloria Steinem, feminist organizer, writer, lecturer, activist
Sometimes it’s in the everyday acts of kindness.
I know you can do that. Your big heart is built for that.
No need to hold back the love that wants to come through you. You can trust your instincts to guide you where it feels right. Your true heart knows the way. It’s about allowing. Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing. You can handle whatever happens. Your big heart is part of what makes you strong.
Sometimes we are afraid to do or say something wrong when trying to help.
This fear of wrongdoing can get us caught in overthinking, but let’s not let it stop us. We can handle making mistakes. Try slowing down to listen before acting.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.”
~Rumi, 13th century Persian poet, Islamic scholar and theologian, Sufi mystic. (Full name: Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī). Quote is from “A Great Wagon” found in The Essential Rumi.
Some of My Relevant Blog Posts
- Heartache > Solidarity > Maybe a Big Awakening Too. (They seem to go together.)
- Managing the Whirlwind of Feelings in a Whirlwind World
- The World Is Changing Fast and Sensitive People Can Play an Important Role.
- What Do I Do with All These Emotions?
- Having a Big Heart Can Also Mean Big Exhaustion. Start with Grounding.
More Resources to support our efforts:
- Mapping Our Social Change Roles in Times of Crisis
- “Etiquette for Activists” – (Seasoned activists offer tips so we can work together productively)
- White Awake: Waking Ourselves for the Benefit of All
- “Activism Needs Introverts” – TEDx talk about the needed quiet ways to make a powerful difference
- B the Change – blog with stories of people using business as a force for good.
- See Recommended Books and Recommended Podcasts for more.
Feedback about this list?
If you feel like I’m misrepresenting anyone, I welcome your input via my contact page. I’m always learning.