Balancing changing the world and self care

“It’s more than okay to pick your battles — it’s actually necessary for your own self-preservation.”[1]

There are so many things we want to do to try to make the world a better place, but our spoon[2] supply is extremely limited. As frustrating as it is, we have to accept maintaining our mental health means we can only do little bits and pieces of activism work here and there. We went through a cycle of accepting this over the last weekend. Our compromise is to wait and collect and create ideas, always looking for situations where we can get a high ROI on spoons spent. When opportunities arise, we can make a big impact, relative to spoons spent.

There are many disadvantaged groups we fall into which we would love to improve the situation for. There are many more groups we do not belong to where we would also like to improve the situation for. Unfortunately, we have a limited amount of spoons and have to very carefully choose how to spend them. For this, we ask ourselves “what do we want?” and make a list of our highest priorities. At the moment, the guiding principal behind our activism work is to try and create a future where all groups we belong to have an attempted suicide rate of under 50%. This does not mean this will guide us forever, but this guiding principal is serving us well for this leg of our journey. Since our spoon supply is so limited, we have to very carefully approach each potential bit of activism work and ask ourselves whether this will bring us closer to lowering the attempted suicide rate for groups we belong to. If the answer is no, it does not mean we should not do that work, but is an early signal that we should very carefully examine whether this is an efficient use of our spoons.

Another very important thing we have done is to surround ourselves with people who encourage us to take care of ourselves first, even if it means doing less activism work. There will always be people who can do more activism work than you, or work which has a larger impact, and just like engineering work, it comes with internal pressure to do more yourself. Imposter syndrome exists for activism work as well. Being surrounded by people who are aware of our limits and who actively encourage us to respect them is incredibly important since we get so many signals, both internal and external, that we should be doing more and pushing ourselves more and that if we only spent a few more spoons, we could make a bigger difference. In the end, we have a greater responsibility to take care of ourselves than to try to change the world.

[2] spoons = energy

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