Fighting When You Feel Small
'I can’t do this.'
'I’m just one person.'
'There’s no way that I’m actually making a difference.'
'I should just stop.'
'It’s not like anyone’s listening to me anyway.'
These are just a few of the negative messages and lies that probably have planted themselves in your brain at one point or another during your advocacy journey. I know that they have found a home in my head, and while they don’t live there all of the time now, they do like to come back for vacations.
The truth is that advocating for the freedom and dignity of all can be so overwhelming at times that we feel extremely small under the weight of it. It can feel like we’re trying to stop the ocean by building a barrier out of the sand, and it’s easy to get discouraged when we can’t see the effects of our words and actions. There were countless times during the recent Dressember campaign that I felt like my voice didn’t really matter. After all, I’m not an actor, public figure, or widely popular blogger who has thousands of followers and fans that I could reach with a single Instagram post. I’m just me; your average young adult with a less than average social media follower count. How am I supposed to make any sort of difference? It took me weeks to answer that question, but when I finally did it changed my whole outlook and approach to advocating.
"Reach the people already around you."
These six words shattered my previous conceptions of what my role as an advocate was supposed to look like, and from those pieces they rebuilt and renewed my fire and passion for this cause. They charged into my brain and chased the negative thoughts and lies away. Previously I was trying to reach thousands of people and get as many likes and donations as possible, but then I’d be deeply disappointed when none of that happened. I would receive donations of $5.00 and feel like I was a failure because I was nowhere near my goal. Yet I failed to see that the person who generously gave me that gift was someone that I had reached. They were someone who had seen my posts and felt compelled to contribute however they could. In my hunger for making the biggest impact possible I neglected to see the people in my everyday life who were taking note and being impacted by me.
Once I saw this warped way of thinking begin to take root in my fight I knew that something had to change. That was the moment when I shifted my focus from trying to get as many donations as possible to raising awareness amongst the people in my everyday life. Instead of trying to reach thousands of strangers, I decided to talk about human trafficking with my friends and family. That was when I discovered that you don’t have to reach millions of people or raise thousands of dollars to make a difference. Reaching just one person is making a difference. Raising $5.00 is making an impact. Advocacy not only can be hard, advocacy is hard. And the difficulty of it multiples tenfold when we begin to focus on the wrong things. We’re all in this together, we’re all fighting for the freedom of all--together.
Once I saw this warped way of thinking begin to take root in my fight I knew that something had to change. That was the moment when I shifted my focus from trying to get as many donations as possible to raising awareness amongst the people in my everyday life.
Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the crowd--I know this as much as anyone. But when I begin to feel like I’m not really adding anything to the cause, that my wave is being lost in the tsunami, or that the movement wouldn’t miss me if I simply left, I think about the human body. All of the parts are necessary, all of them are needed, no matter how small. If the thumb looked around and said, “I’m not needed. There are four other fingers to do everything,” we wouldn’t be able to hold a fork or a cup. We all have a part to play and an impact to make in this world. Maybe yours won’t be on the Insta-famous side of the scale (I know that mine won’t be), but maybe yours will be in the neighbourhood or city side.
Instead of running ourselves ragged trying to reach thousands of people, let’s focus on connecting intimately with those in our lives already. Let’s try to reach the people that already know us but might not know our heart and passion for fighting human trafficking. Let’s make ripples in our own ponds first, because then those will become waves in the oceans.
Let’s make ripples in our own ponds first, because then those will become waves in the oceans.
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About the Author
Katherina Toews sees the world mostly from between the ears of a horse, and wouldn’t want it any other way. She believes that there is nothing that can’t be fixed by sharing tea, chocolate chip cookies, and a good black and white movie with friends.