Setting boundaries for the Activist

Published on
November 11, 2022

There comes a time every year when the days get a bit shorter, the air a bit crisper; when high street stores seem frighteningly close to putting up Christmas decor, Pret starts having decent toasted sandwiches again, and you can safely get on public transport without the fear of stepping on any toes (sticking out of sandals). 

You know the time: Autumn.

Here at Mendü, it’s brought with it a “back to school” feeling  — you know, the time to really buckle down and get to business. And the business this scorching hot summer has left behind, is that our reproductive rights were erased right in front of our eyes. Last autumn wasn’t much better. By the time it arrived, a record number of anti-trans bills had been introduced in America. If all of this is weighing on your mind and wellbeing — the bright summer days gone by, if you will  — you are not alone. 

As someone belonging to an underrepresented group, one of the worst things that you can do for your wellbeing, is to stay silent when faced with things that make your blood boil, such as losing the right to have a say over your own body. Activism can be a productive way to embrace the power of your words instead. But, as a part of the process, you may find yourself stepping on a few toes, and face more requests and demands. When our voices are no longer silenced, we no longer need to live with the mental load of not being ourselves, but it doesn’t mean that our resilience and boundaries are not tested in new ways. To make activism sustainable and impactful over time, we need to make sure that our mental and emotional wellbeing can be sustained. We talk a lot about the importance of resilience, where it can sometimes feel like the aspiration is to make it limitless, and we should feel bad if that’s not the case. A more realistic approach perhaps, is to set boundaries to sustain our resilience and wellbeing. We don’t need to show strength and perseverance to a level that is beyond the population that is not marginalized to have our voices heard in the right places.

Here’s a journaling exercise to set those boundaries.

Start out by writing about your situation and where you feel like your boundaries have been crossed recently. 

Now, define a couple of levels that you think you might interact with different people on. We have provided a suggestion for different levels below, but you can create your own.

Levels

Devolving - the people you tell everything to, both personal and professional. This is the people who give you equal and reciprocal relationships - your “inner circle”.

Collaborating - the people who get to help and “edit” certain aspects of your thinking, but you need to define what you don’t want to tell them and how you want to interact with them. This could be other activists who share your general views, but who differ on the execution.

Informing - the people you will inform superficially about things that you’ve already decided. They mean well, but their voice may not reflect your truth.  Perhaps it’s people who ask you for a quote or to join a panel just to show representation or a different point of view.

Subject Experts - people you reach out to every now and then in areas that they have expertise in. To be an activist might prompt you to try out new things, where others have a skillset but their own set of opinions. You can be deliberate about what you want to take away from those interactions.

Managed - the relationships that need to be managed. You might need to prepare ahead of conversations and think about the narrative that they need to be told. As an activist, there may be people such as your family who have differing views. Part of being an activist is to stand by your opinions and perhaps share your story. But to do so, you don’t need to do it in every situation in every environment. Think about your self-preservation, emotional safety and where you can be impactful.

Acquaintances - people to be pleasant around. 

Now, define where the people you interact with sit within your levels. You’ve set your boundaries.

Access more on self-care for the activist. [Button to app + measurement on number of clicks]

Modified on
October 2, 2022