How To Activate Your Inner Activist: On Finding Your Voice (In A Way That Works For You)

How To Activate Your Inner Activist: On Finding Your Voice (In A Way That Works For You)

Community Tips + Tools WANT Women

I think we can all agree: it’s been quite the year so far (*LOL to the understatement of the decade). Every single person I talk to says some combo of the same things: I’m fired up. I want to make a change. I’m ready to fight. I’m exhausted. I don’t know what to do. I feel called to action.

Overwhelming, right? I know how you feel.

Over the last few months, I’ve had politically and culturally charged conversations with people I would have never expected to talk about these things with so candidly. A common concern I started to hear from most people was that they were worried they weren’t overtly “activisty” enough to be an activist – which, really, was a worry rooted less in their desire to help and moreso their fear of being shamed or judged. Oof.

As I talked to more and more people, I realized I wanted to help. I wanted to meet them where they were at and help them go outside their comfort zones *gradually,* so that eventually the uncomfortable would become comfortable. I realized that while I was on board with all forms of activism, I was most interested in exploring the seemingly small but huge things people could do NOW to make an impact, not exhaust themselves, stay in this for the long haul…and do it all in a way that would feel aligned with who they are.

'Conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue.' - @cantpatthis Click To Tweet

Last Sunday, I had the honor of making my dream panel come to life: an intimate yet powerful conversation with five activist-minded WANT Women and Men (Lauren Bille of The Big Quiet and Cycles + Sex, actor and playwright Patrick Burns, Christen Brandt of She’s The First, Jahan Mantin of Project Inkblot, historian Natalia Petrzela of Past Present) about how to make a difference in a way that’s in alignment with who you are. This dynamic discussion, held at the gorgeous HUBseventeen space below Lululemon’s Flatiron flagship, was for anyone who was new to activism, struggling to figure out ways to make a difference in their OWN way, or just curious as to what “activism” can look like beyond marches and protests.

I wish I could adequately express the energy in the room. It was...electric. Comforting. Eye-opening. On-the-edge-of-your-seat. A big long exhale and ‘I thought I was the only one!’

Here are some of the best takeaways from the day:

1) Use social media wisely. Instead of using social media as a venting ground, use it to share events happening this week (awesome suggestion by Lauren). Without pushing your viewpoints on someone else, share everything from rallies to donation-based yoga classes happening nearby. Social media can be a great way to help people find options that might work for them, whether YOU are able to attend or not. You never know who’s reading that has been looking for a way to take action.

2) …Speaking of which, focus on the common ground instead of the shakey ground. Natalia stressed the importance of educating yourself and learning about the “whys” behind the “whats.” Not just for your own personal benefit – but so you can have more nuanced, productive interactions with the world around you. People who, say, voted the opposite way you did – they have hopes and dreams for this big world, too. Instead of grilling or shaming someone about their choices, ask why and actually listen. Maybe they’re worried about affording healthcare. Maybe they’re passionate about education. Whether it’s on social media with acquaintances or around the dinner table with family, find the things you agree on. You’ll probably realize you have a lot more in common than you thought – and maybe, just maybe, each of you will be able to learn about a new perspective. 

3) Be proactive, not reactive. One of the biggest themes of the afternoon was the importance of listening – and then doing something with that information. It’s really easy to let our emotions go crazy when things get under our skin, but now more than ever is the time to press the pause button. Just like negative self-talk, it’s easier to bond over what we loathe instead of fighting for what we love. Instead of fuming about the latest headline with your friends, probe as to why each of you feel the way you do – and then ask, non-rhetorically (as Christen said), So what are we doing to do about this? In order for progress to be made, the days of venting ad nauseum need to come to a close. As Patrick said, “Conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue.”

4) Privilege is complicated, but it’s not something to feel guilty about. Privilege is a sticky subject. Some people argue that being able to be an “activist” is a privilege in and of itself – however, many people will also say that some don’t have the privilege of turning a blind eye and NOT being an activist. One big takeaway from Sunday was to be honest with yourself about whatever your situation or life has looked like and then do something with it. Christen spoke about how powerful it is to create “safe spaces” – how it’s important to show up time and time again and know not only when it’s important to speak up but when to shut up. We take cues from each other. And she’s realized that her “privilege,” so to speak, can help model the behavior she wants to see out in the world – one that doesn’t assume what someone else’s experience is like or discriminate by class, race, gender, or who we love.

'Show up, know when to speak up, know when to shut up.' - @cjbrandt, @shesthefirst Click To Tweet

5) Small actions can lead to big impact, from the inside out. It doesn’t matter what you do or who you are, you CAN make a difference. If you’re an employee who wants to create change within their company, for example, keep throwing ideas into the mix and eventually one will stick. The first one might fall on deaf ears, but keep going. Something as small as a conversation with someone in the grocery store can shift lives. “You never know what is going to start a ripple effect,” Jahan told us. “You start with one ripple, then another, then another – and eventually, that’s how you make waves.”

'You start with one ripple...eventually, that's how you make waves.' - @projectinkblot Click To Tweet

6) Activism doesn’t always need to be loud to be heard. Okay, that one’s my own. What resonates with one person might fall on deaf ears with another. I think it does a disservice to the causes at hand to force one “form” of activism on everyone. It makes it seem like activism only looks one way – and can often lead to the kind of black-and-white thinking (You’re selfish if you don’t march! or How can you call yourself a feminist/activist/ally if you don’t XYZ?) that discourages newbie activists from taking that powerful first step of their own. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for a powerful march. But I know that’s just ONE part of the equation. The more we can find ways to speak up in ways that are in alignment with who we are, the more comfortable we get with getting uncomfortable, the more we’ll cause a ripple effect within ourselves and others. We’ll eventually feel more comfortable with getting more and more uncomfortable. What once felt awkward and fearful will feel awakened and fearless.

Activism doesn't always need to be loud to be heard. Click To Tweet

Activating your inner activist doesn’t have to be complicated or obvious – it can start with one conversation and go from there. Inch by inch. Step by step. That’s how you build up a voice that resonates in the long run.

HUGE thanks to HUBseventeen for being such fierce supporters of WANT and allowing us to take over your space for the afternoon, and to Lauren, Patrick, Christen, Jahan, and Natalia for sharing so much of yourselves and making the very first WANT panel in NYC a wild success –  and to YOU, the WANT peeps, for being the reason this community is as powerful as it is. Not only did you pack the room, but your questions and enthusiasm had us all on the edge of our seats.

All proceeds from this event went directly to Planned Parenthood.

Photos by Anke Kuballa

Want How To Activate You Inner Activist to come to your town? Get in touch here.


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How To Listen When You Disagree: A Lesson From The Republican National Convention

How To Listen When You Disagree: A Lesson From The Republican National Convention

Community Motivation + Inspiration

It’s easier to unfriend, unfollow, and tune out when we hear what we don’t want to hear. In an ideal world, we tell ourselves, everyone would share our exact viewpoint. In a perfect universe, we say, we’d all think the same way and want the same things. There would be no war, no strife, no struggle…

The thing is, when we stop listening, we stop connecting. And when we stop connecting, we stop growing.

Urban Confessional founder, WANT Man, and former WANTcast guest Benjamin Mathes travels the world holding up signs that say “Free Listening,” inviting whoever longs to be heard (which is really all of us, isn’t it?) an ear and an open heart to be able to do so.

But Ben doesn’t just stand on any corner and offer free listening. Nope – *in addition to* standing in front of your normal boardwalks, parks, and busy streets, Ben and Urban Confessional actively seek out the places where anger and fear might be the emotions running the show. Last week, Ben recounted his experience at the Republican National Convention – not to sway anyone’s political views (or even get political at all), but as a reminder that disagreement is no excuse not to love. Because sometimes, we forget that all people need is an ear to tell their story. Here’s his:

~

She was just staring at me.

She had something to say, and I could tell she was curious about the Free Listening sign, but she didn’t seem to have to courage to speak to me.

Yet.

So, I waited. Nowhere to be, and all day to get there.

It was so hot outside.

Finally, she walked up, and like a young warrior preparing for battle, she said:

“I don’t usually do this, and I know this isn’t a hot button topic anymore… But, I think abortion is wrong. It’s not a form of birth control, and people who have them should be arrested for murder.”

Most protesters at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland were yelling about Donald Trump—for or against—all part of this beautiful circus of free speech.

She was different. There was no circus here. She was serious.

I had been Free Listening at the RNC for a few hours, and most people who spoke with me told me about their families, their jobs, and the things that brought them to Cleveland.

No one had opened up about a serious, but controversial issue.

But here she was.

It was so hot outside.

~

Lets face it, it’s loud out there. It seems like everyone has something to say and somewhere to say it.

Our Facebook feeds are littered with articles, posts, and images from all types of people. For some of us, this is difficult to handle, so we edit out the ones we disagree with until our feed looks more like an echo board our of own thoughts.

If we’re not careful, we’ll treat people this way. Editing out the one’s we disagree with until we’re surrounded by people who are just like us.

Then we wonder why we’re so divided.

I know what you’re thinking, though: “It’s my feed, I’ll block who I want. I shouldn’t have to be offended. I don’t have time for that. Life is too short. I only want to see what I want to see.”

If we’re not careful, we’ll treat people this way.

Then wonder why we’re so divided.

~

If there’s one question I get asked more than any other question, it’s this: How do I listen to someone when I disagree with them?

There are many ways to answer this. It takes a lot of forgiveness, compassion, patience, and courage to listen in the face of disagreement. I could write pages on each of these principles, but lets start with the one thing that makes forgiveness, compassion, patience, and courage possible.

We must work to hear the person not just the opinion.

My friend, Agape, says it like this:
Hear the biography, not the ideology. -Agape Click To Tweet

When someone has a point of view we find difficult to understand, disagreeable, or even offensive, we must look to the set of circumstances that person has experienced that resulted in that point of view.

Get their story, their biography, and you’ll open up the real possibility of an understanding that transcends disagreement.

Like the roots of a tree, our stories, which can create our beliefs, are completely unique, and also connected. It is through story that we can find common ground enough to co-exist in the face of great, often necessary, tension.

When you find yourself in disagreement, just ask one question:

“Will you tell me your story? I’d love to know how you came to this point of view.”

~

As she spoke to me about her beliefs on abortion, I wanted to stop her, and tell her my story.

I’ve sat with two loved ones as they suffered through the difficult decision and consequences of ending a pregnancy. It was a brutal human experience, and gave me an insight to something I never expected to witness.

In moments like that, “choice” doesn’t seem to be the right word.

So, when she told me they should be arrested for terminating a pregnancy, the familiar burn of disagreement started to fire in me.

There were so many things I wanted to say. I wanted to change her mind, to argue, to disagree. Its a natural response.

But, if my story brought me to my beliefs, then I needed to know how her story brought her to her beliefs.

“When you listen, you may learn something new”
— Dali Lama

So, I asked:

“Thank you for sharing that. Tell me your story? I’d love to know how you came to this point of view.”

She seemed surprised by my interest.

“Why? It doesn’t matter. You’re sign said Free Listening, so I gave you something to listen to.”

“Give me more to listen to.”

“They should be locked up! It’s wrong. It’s not right to go out and sleep with who ever, then just vacuum away the result like it never happened.”

She paused…then inhaled the entire world.

“And it’s not fair. All I’ve ever wanted to be is a mom. My whole life, I knew I was meant to have children. Then, when I was 18—18!–the doctor told me I’d never have children. My ovaries were damaged, or missing…it doesn’t matter which. I kept it a secret, and when my husband found out, he left me. I’m alone, my body doesn’t work, I’m old…who will ever love me…”

I wondered if she could hear my heart breaking.

“…so, I guess I get upset when I see people who can get pregnant, who can have kids, who’s bodies work…who can be moms…and they just choose not to…”

Sometimes, there’s nothing to “disagree” with.

I didn’t need to be right.

I just needed to be there.

She wiped away a few tears, gave me a hug, and thanked me for listening.

She exhaled, and walked back into the RNC circus.

Maybe one day, she’ll hear my story. But today, it was my turn to hear hers.

I hope she felt loved.

I didn’t need to be right. I just needed to be there. - @bcmathes Click To Tweet
~

The truth is, if our love can hold space for paradox, tension, and disagreement, there’s room for all types of beliefs and opinions.

Division is a choice.

Life isn’t a Facebook feed.

Our love, our listening, must bring in, not edit out.

Dare to listen, dare to be quiet, dare to seek understanding; in the end, its the people we need to love, not their opinions.

how-to-disagree

Our love, our listening, must bring in, not edit out. - @bcmathes Click To Tweet

To join Urban Confessional or host your own Free Listening event in your city, click here for all the ways to get involved.

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Squad Goals + Self Worth: 5 Tips For When You’re Triggered By Your Friends

Squad Goals + Self Worth: 5 Tips For When You’re Triggered By Your Friends

Community Love Tips + Tools

YOU KNOW the saying “You are a combination of the 5 people you spend the most time with?” That also means that many times, when our closest friends and loved ones get under our skin, it’s an indication of something deeper going on within ourselves. Astrologer (and major-league WANT Woman) Danielle Beinstein is the co-founder of the New Moon Circle in Venice Beach, CA, which gives women a sacred space to set intentions, form bonds, and heal their lives from the inside out. Today, I’ve asked Danielle to shed some wisdom on the power of female friendships, how to respond when you feel yourself being triggered, and why the people you surround yourself with are way more than just your “squad” – they’re your mirrors.


Growing up, I always had a best friend. I was the emotional caretaker, notoriously the less popular of the duo with a penchant for psychoanalyzing, babysitting and distributing candy from my locker (true story) to brighten people’s day (and, eek, to get people to like me). I supported my friends, while shunning the spotlight.

I was good at this – at least for a while. But something inside me (likely propelled by my Venus in Leo, which craves attention) felt unfulfilled and unseen. I became restless.

And so I did what I thought I had to do: I staged a break-up and left for greener pastures. This is the classic story, right? The sidekick emerges from the sidelines, set aglow.

Except not so much. At least not in my case. Because I came up against myself. And it wasn’t pretty.

We seem to be at a cultural peak of female friendships. Much has been touted about Taylor Swift’s parading her besties on stage, for her dreamlike posse. In this post-Sex and The City age, we’re championing friendship more than ever, advertising them like the latest lipstick on glossy, manicured pages. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually a very good thing. Female friendships are getting their due.

And yet, sometimes it feels almost cartoonish. After all, women are emotional creatures. We rub off on one other. We wrestle with our accomplishments – or lack thereof. We experience envy, question ourselves and our choices. We can be catty and gossipy. We get triggered.

In short, we’re human.

And our humanness very often bleeds into and onto our friendships.

Female friendships are complex. In order to really work, they require a constant give and take. They require honest self-inquiry and self-assessment. They require us to grow up. Because the truth is that what annoys us or irritates us in another – even in our dearest relationships– is very often reflecting our own unconscious patterning back to us.

In astrology, the 7th house is associated with one-on-one partnerships, marriages and open enemies. So often clients will come to me asking about their romantic relationships – why they’re attracted to certain partners. And it’s always in there. But if we look closer, we often find the same characteristics will apply to our close friends (or open enemies) as well. We’re drawn to others for a reason – because they have something to teach us, to show us, regardless of whether the relationship is romantic or platonic, and whether the material is positive or negative.
After all, relationships are mirrors – and we may not always like what we see. -Dani Beinstein Click To Tweet

When I was younger, for example, I would complain that my friends were withholding, that they took, freely, without returning in kind. I felt bereft, convinced everyone was somehow better than me, my negative self-talk in full effect, subversively driving my every action. But as I matured, I realized that, in fact, I had been doing this to myself. I had been denying myself love, affection and attention. I had rejected myself. My friendships were simply showcasing my own self-worth, my own lack of self-esteem.

I had to own my projections and work, tirelessly, on filling my own cup. I stopped blaming others for my state. I practiced self care, set boundaries (even when it made me physically ill) and connected to my inner child inside, giving her stifled and contracted voice a safe and sacred outlet. I had to let her breathe.

And now, my life is, ironically, coming full circle. I am, of all things, making a career as the supportive champion of others (mostly women). I have come to own my inherent worth and thus can meet my friends from a place of wholeness and completeness. And when I am triggered, we talk about it – it’s out on the table and becomes an opportunity for intimacy and healing.

In other words, it’s real.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.


DANIELLE’s 5 TIPS FOR WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF TRIGGERED:

STOP.
Take a Breath. Observe the situation. Proceed.

LISTEN.
Listen with your heart. We are quick to give advice, to fix. But pause. Really listen underneath the words. What are they trying to convey? What is that they’re really trying to say?

ASK QUESTIONS.
Why is this really bothering me? What is this revealing to me about me? Do I do this? Think this? Feel this?

GET NEUTRAL.
Accept it – from a neutral place. Without judgment. This is key. When we judge something, we lock it into place. We all have flaws and imperfections. We’re all human.

FORGIVE.
Forgiveness. Of others. But more importantly, forgive yourself. We’re all here to grow and learn. What would be the point of being on earth if we were perfect?

What would be the point of being on earth if we were perfect? -Danielle Beinstein Click To Tweet


Loved this piece? Me, too. Tune in to the WANTcast next week to hear Dani and I talk beauty standards, pop culture, and the journey that lead her to the unconventional career path that turned out to be right where she belongs.
(…plus a giveaway!)

photo credit: kathryn page