Does Activism Mean Never Being Satisfied?

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Activists have done so much to bring important issues to light and create real social change, despite the fact that change often comes much slower than we would like. There is no doubt that there is a lot of work left to be done, but how do we balance our own happiness with the happiness of others, and where do we draw the line between being comfortable and being complacent?

Before I answer the title question of this post, here are two things I think can really benefit activists who are struggling to balance the two.

Understand the difference between comfort and complacency

Comfort often seems like a shallow thing to pursue, but pursuing comfort is not on its own a bad thing. We all need a base level of comfort in order to get anything done with our lives. We activists have a tendency to put other people before ourselves, which sounds great in theory, but in practice putting other people first actually makes it harder for us to help. Think about it – it isn’t safe to drive a car on no sleep. What makes you think it is safe to help people when you are struggling yourself? There is a big difference between pursuing comfort alongside your other life goals, and pursuing comfort alone and for its own sake. The latter is more akin to…

complacency (n). a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.

Complacency is what happens when pursuit of comfort goes too far. The question you need to ask yourself as an activist is this: Is my pursuit of creature comforts getting in the way of my higher goals? If the answer is yes, then it may be time to reevaluate your priorities. If not, then stop worrying about it!

Celebrate victories (even while accepting that you still have more to do)

As activists, we tend to think that our work is never done. Even if we achieved marriage equality in the U.S., there are still many other rights that are being denied to LGBTQ individuals in this country. Even though we halved global poverty, we have a long way to go to eliminate it. It is important not to retire from a cause simply because you hit a major milestone. That said, there is no harm in celebrating this progress, as long as we don’t allow a sense of self-satisfaction to overtake our drive to create change.

What is the answer?

Activism does not mean never being satisfied. However, it does mean never being completely satisfied. You can (and should) celebrate your victories, both large and small. However, the minute that you start losing your drive to move forward and create change, that is the moment where you need to look inside yourself and remind yourself of what it is that you are fighting for.

For more on activism, check out my activism tag. As always, thanks for reading!

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