We Can’t All Be Social Justice Warriors – Does Another Role Fit Better?

A sign that says "Fight today for a better tomorrow" amidst several people at a protest.
Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

I describe myself as a Social Justice Bard, rather than a Warrior.

I write blogs and books about causes that are important to me. I share and uplift the stories of others, especially those taking direct action or directly experiencing injustice. I sign up for email lists like Anti-Racism Daily to educate myself and unpack my privilege and bias. I support Black artists and activists on Patreon and contribute to bail funds and other fundraisers to give money directly to BIPOC in need or uplifting activism.

This is how I show up.

It could be better. I could get over my distaste for the phone and call my senators instead of sending emails. I could volunteer to text bank or send letters and postcards to mobilize voters and activists. The list of things I could be doing is infinite.

But here’s the truth: We all need to show up, imperfectly, doing what we can, to make the changes we want to see.

I’m not as physically able as others to be marching in the streets or knocking on doors in my neighborhood. Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue team up to burn me out for days after strenuous activity, made worse by extreme temperatures.

So I write. I retweet. I sign. I share. I give. I pay.

Hand-wringing over not doing enough keeps you in guilt and centering your feelings of inadequacy over actually showing up and doing the work.

Do what you can, and be intentional with your bandwidth to do more direct action toward the causes you believe in as you are able.

How 2020 Changed Activism

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted for the masses social inequities that BIPOC and leftist organizers have been talking about forever. We’ve seen how a lack of available healthcare impacted the working class, how minimum wage workers were deemed “essential” without long-term pay increases, how the working class, immunocompromised, and elderly were sacrificed for the sake of the “economy,” and how disparities in healthcare access for Black people led to higher risk of COVID complications without acknowledging the racist biases present in our hospitals and medical community.

In May, the death of George Floyd sparked a renewed swell of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, with protests around the entire world in support of Black lives. Specific protests for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Elijah McClain gained particular attention.

The summer was marked by a surging movement of activism calling for social change but with the coronavirus pandemic affecting how people interact with one another, many of these calls to action took place online.

NBC: A summer of digital protest: How 2020 became the summer of activism both online and offline

Lack of company transparency and support for the Black Lives Matter movement also led to several people (myself included) quitting their jobs in 2020, whether in solidarity or for their own safety and security.

While “armchair activism” or “slacktivism” (only participating in activist causes from home or online) used to be treated as a lesser form of activism, the fact that people were stuck at home in 2020 while our society experienced several major social movements meant that work-from-home activists were doing just as much for the cause as anyone else, albeit in different ways.

As the pandemic has unfolded, we’ve seen people from all walks of life mobilise to protect, support, educate and entertain from behind their screens. Personal trainer Joe Wicks launched digital PE classes to support parents who suddenly became homeschoolers. Communities across the UK formed Facebook and WhatsApp groups, banding together to help the vulnerable in their areas where the government fell short. And brands from Google to Guinness donated millions to support local healthcare systems, communities and industries.

We Are Social: How Armchair Activism Became a Force for Change During COVID-19

Coming out of a year that finally opened many people’s eyes to racial and class disparities in American society, we mobilized, created mutual aid programs, and saw a surge of new members to working class activist groups like the Democratic Socialists of America.

We know that we want to do something. But many of us feel pulled in so many different directions and want to contribute as much as we can to as many causes as possible.

The Social Change Ecosystem Map

Feeling pulled in all those different directions is the perfect time to get clear on what your role truly is in our social equity landscape (or ecosystem, as this resource highlights).

This incredible resource from the Building Movement Project names ten roles people may embody as activists working toward a more just and equitable world.

In the center, a yellow circle includes the words "Equity, Liberation, Justice, Solidarity" and has ten curved lines reaching out to other colored circles. The ten circles are labeled Weavers, Experimenters, Frontline Responders, Visionaries, Builders, Caregivers, Disrupters, Healers, Storytellers, and Guides.
Deepa Iyer, Building Movement Project. SM, © 2018 Deepa Iyer. All rights
reserved. All prior licenses revoked.

The ten roles are listed below, and a PDF version is available for download here from the Building Movement Project website.

All of these roles are important in the fight for a just, equitable, liberated world. Which means that none of us can do everything, and that the differences in your activism could mean inspiring, uplifting, and healing others — and you thought you weren’t doing enough just because your feet weren’t on the ground.

When you are worried about not being or doing enough, look for the evidence of your work’s impact. I bet you’ll find it.

Which roles sound most like you?

  • Weavers: I see the through-lines of connectivity between people, places, organizations, ideas, and movements.
  • Experimenters: I innovate, pioneer, and invent. I take risks and course-correct as needed.
  • Frontline Responders: I address community crises by marshaling and organizing resources, networks, and messages.
  • Visionaries: I imagine and generate our boldest possibilities, hopes and dreams, and remind us of our direction.
  • Builders: I develop, organize, and implement ideas, practices, people, and resources in service of a collective vision.
  • Caregivers: I nurture and nourish the people around me by creating and sustaining a community of care, joy, and connection.
  • Disruptors: I take uncomfortable and risky actions to shake up the status quo, to raise awareness, and to build power.
  • Healers: I recognize and tend to the generational and current traumas caused by oppressive systems, institutions, policies, and practices.
  • Storytellers: I craft and share our community stories, cultures, experiences, histories, and possibilities through art, music, media, and movement.
  • Guides: I teach, counsel, and advise, using my gifts of well-earned discernment and wisdom.

The Social Change Ecosystem Map is an invaluable resource, especially after the last year of social causes that have continued to demand advocacy, education, and mobilization.

“As an individual, you can use it when you need a re-set, when you feel stuck, burned out or
confused, or when you don’t know how to begin. I use it often when there is a community crisis and
don’t know how to respond. For example, people have been using the framework to figure out
their roles during COVID-19, in the struggle for Black liberation, and for post-election response.”

Social Change Ecosystem Map. Deepa Iyer, Building Movement Project. SM, © 2018 Deepa Iyer. All rights reserved. All prior licenses revoked.

The map comes with a downloadable PDF of prompts and exercises to help you find the role that fits you best. Once you know your role with greater clarity, focus on those types of activities. By being focused on the activist opportunities that best combine your talents and instincts with the needs in the social justice community, you will have a much easier time staying clear on your particular path to activism. Ideally, using this framework will help you avoid burnout from trying to do everything.

Activism Ideas for Beginners

If you’re just getting started in your social justice activism or you’re looking to get clarity and reduce the “must do all the things” candle you’re burning at both ends, here are some action steps you can take:

  • Sign up for Anti-Racism Daily and support their work on Patreon for $7 a month
  • Explore your local non-profits, mutual aid groups, and Black Lives Matter chapters for opportunities to help in-person, virtually, or financially
  • Adjust your budget to set up recurring reparations payments or non-profit donations
  • Contact your representatives (use ResistBot, your reps’ websites, email, or phone calls)
  • Call out oppressive comments from your friends and family on social media and around the dinner table
  • Consume the art, writing, and work of Black and Indigenous People of Color; not just their work about racism and social justice, but their art and fantasy novels and cosplay too

Share your own experiences with activism in the comments, I would love to hear from you and celebrate the work you do!

How to Combat a Creative Scarcity Mindset

 A black notebook with red writing that says "Write Ideas" with two overlapping speech bubbles. Next to the notebook is a wooden pencil. The notebook and pencil are on top of a dark stained wooden surface with slats.
Image ID: A black notebook with red writing that says “Write Ideas” with two overlapping speech bubbles. Next to the notebook is a wooden pencil. The notebook and pencil are on top of a dark stained wooden surface with slats.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

My relationship with my creativity has had its ups and downs.

I’ve had periods where I barely keep track of all the ideas I have, so I make lists upon lists so I don’t forget. I’ve had times where I was afraid I would run out of ideas if I didn’t limit them to a reasonable, achievable number of posts per week. Most recently, I took roughly half a year off writing, burned out, depressed, and worried my creativity would never return.

Luckily, creativity is not a scarce resource. It’s all around, and those of us looking for inspiration to share ideas, art, or words can find it without needing to go too far.

Of course, health (physical and mental) is a determining factor in how well we can express our creative sides, and it’s normal to have ups and downs in productivity, motivation, and creative output.

But you will never, ever run out of creativity forever, even if you need to take a break and press pause for a while.

I am living proof of that.

What is a scarcity mindset?

A scarcity mindset means that our brains are focused on what we lack, rather than what we have or what we can work toward bringing into our lives.

When you’re worried about money scarcity, you focus more on the risks of spending rather than acting as if money is abundant and flowing regularly into your life.

Example: I just ordered a $40 planner when I would normally talk myself out of it because it’s “frivolous.”

When you’re worried about food scarcity, you count and stretch every morsel, denying yourself what would fill you up instead of knowing that you have plenty to eat.

Example: My eating disorder, whom I have named Carl, routinely tells me I shouldn’t eat the last of anything so I can save it for later, and then it goes bad in the fridge.

When you’re worried about your business failing, you’re more prone to say yes to discounts or resist raising your rates just to close a sale rather than focusing on attracting the clients who are able and enthusiastic about paying your full price.

Example: I once raised my freelance rates from $25 to $40 an hour, lost one client, and had two more clients accept the change and roll with it.

AN IMPORTANT CAVEAT:

Scarcity is REAL, and I don’t want to pretend that true wealth and security come from your state of mind when you’re facing actual scarcity of income, resources, food, etc.

We live in a society that requires money to live, and you can’t visualize yourself out of traumatic poverty with positive affirmations. Some people are truly in dire straits and need to get on their feet with the basics before they can begin to feel safe going for their big pie-in-the-sky dreams. 

When it comes to things that are finite, like food, money, space in your house, hours of the day, and gas in your car, it makes sense to manage them so that you don’t run out. That’s effective resource management, and it is a survival level need.

Once your survival needs are met, though, THEN the work on your scarcity beliefs about money, creativity, and more can begin. This work takes your focus toward self-actualizing goals that move you toward bigger long-term personal development.

Creativity is unlimited

Why is it that so many of us are afraid that leaning into our inspiration will leave us creatively broke and unable to come up with new ideas tomorrow if we spend them all today?

Your creative ideas aren’t birthday wishes. You can say them out loud! And more will always come.

What thoughts are holding you back from believing that you can achieve what you desire?

  • Making money means I’m a bad person
  • I feel guilty succeeding when I know my friends are struggling
  • Putting myself out there is too risky
  • I don’t have good ideas
  • I’m not good enough at my service/art/trade to charge more for it
  • I’ll run out of ideas of things to write about
  • I can only use an idea once, so it has to be perfect
  • Why bother putting myself out there if I’m not an expert?
  • Other people can do it better than I can

Do any of these apply to you? Look for evidence to the contrary and dig deep about how those beliefs got there in the first place. (We can work on this together, or comment and I’ll try to reply ASAP!)

Think about how many Spider-Man movies there are. Filmmakers just keep remaking them with new actors and different plots. But they keep getting made, and they keep making money. And then we get awesome movies like Into the Spider-Verse.

Your ideas can grow and develop into new iterations too!

Think about the person you want to be in a year, three years, five years — what does that version of you think about these beliefs holding you back? 

Go to the place where you already have everything you desire, and see if you’re still worried about running out of ideas, talent, or happy customers.

Visualize yourself creating your art, your course, your products to the point of being sold out, booked solid, and able to refer potential clients to others in your circle because you’re at capacity with the exact right clients for you!

When in doubt, visualize Future You and see what they have to say about how they got there. I think you’ll find that running out of ideas was never a problem.

Get clarity on your goals

I help clients retrain their brains, rethinking negative thoughts and mental blocks so they can access all their creative potential! Book a free clarity call to see if we’re right for each other.

What We Keep Messing Up About “SMART” Goals

A blue planner notebook that says “My Secret Plan to Rule the World” with a pink background. Photo by Ann H from Pexels.

Goals should be SMART, right? Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

But a lot of us fail to pay attention to the achievable and relevant parts of the planning process. We stick to specific and time bound, and if life goes sideways or we get smacked with a global pandemic or an illness or family issues or a job loss, we think we failed at our goal just because we didn’t finish it in the time allotted.

Goals need room to breathe and adjust.

When a goal is no longer relevant or achievable in the way you first planned, going back to that goal and changing your method or timeline is not only “not failing,” but it’s actually setting you up for success.

Goals change to honor you where you are

When I turned 25, I made a five year plan. I wanted to be debt free, married, and a parent by 30.

I am 32, twice divorced, child free by choice (plot twist!), and still looking at about $30,000 of debt between my student loan and car.

And I am cool with this.

Chasing marriage-and-baby as the measurement of my success would still have me in an abusive marriage instead of nearly three years out and in the healthiest relationship of my life.

Chasing debt-free would have me still in a toxic workplace just because it paid well, rather than seeking work that fuels my passion AND talents, with time to recover from burnout and start my own business.

Last year, I started off 2020 with a pile of goals. Get two more book deals, run my online course four times, and launch a coaching practice. As I realized these goals weren’t achievable in one year while balancing my own mental and physical health needs, I revised the goals.

And then I quit my job in the middle of the year and took several months off to recover from burnout.

At that point, my goal was survival and recovery.

Now that I’ve gotten through a period of rest, I’m job seeking, I’m launching a new brand, and I have two coaching clients. It’s a humble beginning, but it’s a beginning that honors my boundaries and needs.

It is okay if you have to press pause. It is okay if you hit a life milestone and haven’t achieved what you thought you would when you looked at this time and place from the past. And it’s also okay for you to have some feelings about it and grieve the life you thought you’d have right now.

But put yourself in your five-years-ago shoes. Are you better off now? Don’t think about your goals or where you could be now if you had done something different. Just — are you better off today than five years ago, with regard to your own happiness and life satisfaction?

Are your relationships better? Are you a better communicator? Do you love yourself more? Are you happier with your mental and emotional health? Do you have hobbies you enjoy? Are you in love? Did you read a really great book or find a new musical artist that brings you joy?

Yes to any of these? Rock on. That’s awesome and I love that for you.

No to any of these? Okay, let’s make a goal to work on that for this year.

The new SMART goals

Next time you set goals, don’t just go down the acronym and make a quick 5-point goal. Think it through. Try these prompts.

S – Specific

What is your goal, specifically? Don’t put a timeframe here, that comes later. An example of a specific goal is “run my online course four times this year” and an even more specific goal would be “sell out my online course four times this year with 10 people per run.”

How confident are you that you can achieve this goal? What if you only get eight people but still run your course each time? Will you still feel successful? What if 12 people want to take it? Will you change the number of seats you offer?

Be specific but be open to a bit of flexibility.

M – Measurable

What is the measure of your success for your goal? Continuing the above example, success would be measured by running the course four times with ten people per run. If your goal is to get a job, your measurement could be a job offer with your desired salary and benefits, or it could be as simple as accepting a job offer. It’s up to you how specific your goal is and how you measure it.

In my last job, I was making $71,000 per year but I was miserable. Recently in an interview for a nonprofit, I said I would need to make at least $55,000 per year in order to take a full time role that met my financial needs. I did the math, and that’s how much I would need to pay my bills and save up for a house or other long-term financial goal.

If your goal is to graduate college, the measure of your success could be hitting all your graduation requirements for a degree. Or you could shoot for a specific GPA to help you get into a graduate program. Your goals can have layers (getting into grad school being a separate goal).

When setting the measures for success, I like to take a stretch goal approach. For instance, I want to grow my social media presence to 500 followers, but it would be really cool if I hit 1000. This way, 500 is my measurable goal, and 1000 is the next measure I would want to hit but it’s going to be fine (and still successful) if I don’t get all the way there.

(By the way, follow me on Instagram at @CaitlinFisherAuthor and @CriticalHitRecovery.)

A – Achievable

Take into account your abilities and means to achieve your goal the way you want to. If you want to go to college full-time but you also need a full-time job to keep a roof over your head, maybe part-time is the way to go because full-time isn’t achievable while also maintaining your mental health.

For me, running my course four times in a year wasn’t possible in 2020 because I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to develop, market, and run the course four times while also managing my stress. It wasn’t the right time for that goal. It didn’t mean the goal was bad, it just needed adjustment.

If your goal is to start a brand new business off the ground and make $100,000 in your first year, is that achievable? Maybe. Is it likely? Not really.

Adjust your goal to make sure it’s something you can feel good about working toward and you won’t be burning yourself out to achieve it at any cost. If you find yourself burning out, go back to your goal and rework it so that it is achievable.

R – Relevant

Does your goal make sense? Is it relevant to your long-term plans? I briefly considered buying a house this year but quickly realized that I’m open to relocating to another state in the next few years, so buying didn’t really make sense for me right now.

I also want a dog. Is that relevant to my long-term goals and my life right now? Finally, yes, I think it is. I am committed to remote work, so my “I’m not home enough for a dog” reason is no longer applicable, and I’ve wanted a dog for years now. (Is owning a dog a goal? It is now).

What could change the relevance of your goal? Would a change in your employment, relationship, or other aspect of your life change this goal? Make a list of what might impact it.

T – Time Bound

The trickiest aspect of goal setting is the timeline. Obviously a goal needs a target date for completion, or you won’t have any idea how to pace yourself and work toward it.

But this is where we get so hung up on our goals. We put all our eggs into the time-bound basket without checking back in on the rest, and then if something happens that derails a goal, we internalize it as a failure.

But the failure isn’t in you, it’s in approaching goals as a rigid and immovable force that can’t be shifted and adapted.

How to avoid the time-bound trap

I want you to look back on your life and think about all the amazing things you did, not get hung up on when you did them. Your life is full of achievements, strength, courage, and joy. These things don’t need to be timed or measured in order for them to have their full weight as positive experiences.

So here’s what I want you to do when you’re setting your goals:

  • Make a giant list of all the things you need to do to achieve your goal in your allotted time
  • Schedule regular check-ins to make sure your goals are still achievable and relevant for the time allotted
  • If not, adjust your measurement, your goal, or your timeline
  • Don’t beat yourself up about having to change your goal — your diligence and consistency will pay off, and your success is still a success even if it comes later than you planned

Work with me one on one

Setting goals is easy. Staying on top of them, and working through your brain’s bullshit, is not. I help my clients work toward their goals with accountability and mindset work (and some tough love if they’re lying to themselves about how achievable their big pile of goals is). Schedule a free 30-minute consult to see if we’d be a good fit for coaching!

“I Quit My Job Over #BLM” — How Millennials Are Killing Businesses from the Inside Out

Image Desc: A photo from a Black Lives Matter protest with signs unfocused in the foreground and background. A sign in the center, held up by a white-appearing person's arm, says "To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards - Ella Wheeler Cox"
Image Desc: A photo from a Black Lives Matter protest with signs unfocused in the foreground and background. A sign in the center, held up by a white-appearing person’s arm, says “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards – Ella Wheeler Cox”
Photo by Zoe VandeWater on Unsplash

I have a background in marketing, branding, and social media. I’ve developed consumer personas of millennial and gen Z buyers, led rebranding meetings to capture a younger audience, and I’m a millennial consumer myself.

This summer, I quit a marketing job in order to recover from burnout, begin a coaching practice, and pursue a career in nonprofit communications. And one of the things that is front and center in my job search is making sure that any organization I work for aligns with my personal values. 

Turns out, that’s a pretty typical millennial thing to do. 

Millennials and Gen Z Respond to Brands’ Ethics

One of the most frustrating* things about Millennials is the way we keep senselessly destroying industries, products, and norms. We killed Applebee’s, we killed canned tuna, we killed styrofoam cups, we killed gym memberships. (*sarcasm)

I wrote the following excerpt two years ago but it still stands — and has evolved to include an even bigger focus on social justice and ethical integrity of brands.

This blatant and ubiquitous finger pointing is one more attempt to accuse us of ruining the fun for everyone else, despite the fact that industries change over time and maybe your product has simply reached the end of its time to shine. Do you see Apple out there whining that nobody buys an iPod Shuffle anymore? Hell no! Apple gets with the times and offers new, better, on-trend offerings. And when we’ve all got our cell phones directly embedded into our brains or our forearms or whatever the future holds, they’ll come up with something else. 

Did millennials destroy huge tube television sets, or did technology improve to the point where flat screens are accessible and affordable? Did millennials destroy desktop computers, or have developments in laptops and tablets offered a more realistic solution for people to take their work on the go? Did we destroy USB drives, or did Google and Apple perfect cloud technology? 

Why is it so much easier to point at a whole generation of young adults and say “Oh my God, they killed JCPenney” than it is to realistically grasp the concept that technology and societal needs change over time? For each thing “destroyed” by millennials, take a look around and see if something else has developed in its place. 

We’re killing restaurants but giving rise to meal subscription services. 

We’re killing grocery store chains while promoting low-overhead online alternatives like Thrive Market and Brandless. 

We’re killing diamonds and jewelers, instead supporting a robust network of Etsy sellers who offer their handmade wares from across the globe. 

So what does this mean, for consumerism, for capitalism, and for the economy at large? Are millennials wielding their mighty collective Twitter presence to destroy the way we buy things and exchange money for goods and services? You betcha. 

Excerpt from The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation by Caitlin Fisher, May 2019

Over half of young consumers (55%) have participated in Black Lives Matter protests, activism, and awareness, as reported by Y Pulse. And these consumers want their purchases to reflect their values. Sixty-nine percent of millennial and gen Z consumers surveyed think that brands should be involved in the Black Lives Matter movement.

It’s incredibly clear that youth brands need to be participating in supporting this cause right now. In fact, as Business Insider reports, many are telling influencers and celebrities that if they aren’t posting to show support of Black Lives Matter, they should cease posting completely. Brands are likely to be viewed in the same light, and those who sat on the sidelines or ignored this historic moment will not be remembered kindly by young consumers.

Y Pulse: Most Young Consumers Want Brands to Support #BlackLivesMatter – Here’s How

And simply trotting out an empty line about support isn’t enough. We want to see action, money, and resources supporting the cause. We want transparency about how many people of color, women, queer folx, and other marginalized people are in executive leadership. We want to know where people of color are working — salary positions in the office, or hourly labor positions? And when you tell us, we want to know what you’re doing about the discrepancies now that you see them more clearly.

Consumers, many of whom have donated hundreds of dollars to these causes, are asking for more, and they’ve made it clear that corporate praise will be harder to come by — especially if organizations are not transparent in their commitments and hesitant to open their purses.

Vox: Consumers don’t care about corporate solidarity. They want donations.

Forbes is tracking corporate contributions to the BLM movement, with many well-known brands making the list with financial contributions to organizations and grassroots campaigns. But money isn’t enough if it isn’t accompanied by action — for example, Facebook made a financial contribution and a statement about Black Lives Matter, but regularly censors and removes posts from Black writers and activists that speak out against white supremacy or police brutality, while posts from white supremacists and far-right extremists are left alone and reports dismissed, while algorithms steer people to their harmful content.* (*Content note: This New York Times article makes a fatphobic reference to fast food companies and obesity.)

With millennials wielding an estimated $2.5 trillion in annual spending power, brands need to follow that money to stay relevant. More and more, we’re seeing brands that used to choose neutrality quickly switching gears to course correct when confronted with discriminatory company history.

It’s refreshing, as a millennial who has witnessed years of eyeroll-worthy headlines about the crumbling diamond industry, to see the collective realization of large companies that the future is millennial and gen Z. 

The tide of consumerism and brand loyalty is changing. While brand loyalty used to mean only ever buying one brand of toothpaste, the concept has evolved and shifted.

Now, a brand needs to be loyal to its values — and the values of its consumers — if it wants to succeed in an era of conscious consumerism.

From Buying Habits to Hiring Practices

Just as brands are shifting to follow consumer habits, companies will also have to shift to attract and keep the best talent employed. The older, corporate types are retiring and leaving the workforce, and millennials are stepping in as companies refresh and rebrand.

How will a company attract millennial and gen Z dollars if they can’t reflect millennial and gen Z values?

This is forcing companies to consider what younger people want when they’re hiring new employees who will shape the future of their brands. Millennials building their careers want purposeful jobs that make them feel good about the work they do. And they also want flex time so they can go to a doctor’s appointment and remote work options — which are now especially relevant in the COVID pandemic, as we discovered almost immediately that most office work can be done from home without losing any productivity. 

We also want better paid parental leave when we have kids, better vacation time, wages that are more in line with the cost of living, and even union protections. And we will give up money to take a job that provides better culture or balance. 

A 2014 study from Bentley University reported that millennials would take a pay cut of $7600 a year to take a job with a better work-life balance, better company culture, or that they felt was more purposeful. 

If you can’t lure in the talent with money when you have a bad company culture, you’re going to have to adapt your company culture.

And I, for one, welcome our new millennial and gen Z overlords. 

I Quit My Job Over #BLM — And I’m Not the Only One 

The timing of my career shift was prompted by my company’s disappointing response to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

As the content manager for a major greenhouse operation, Green Circle Growers, with multiple national houseplant brands including Just Add Ice orchids and Wild Interiors, I oversaw our social media and blog content, as well as all marketing materials for the company. So when I saw that our main competitors and the retailers that sold our products were making statements and monetary contributions to the Black Lives Matter movement, I expected that we would act alongside them. 

I sent my manager some screenshots of posts along with a recommendation that we make a post the following day in support, with a contribution to the NAACP. I thought nothing of it and expected a thumbs up to move forward. 

Instead, my recommendation that we post across all our brands was shut down by company leadership. 

And, somewhat out of character for my conflict-avoidant self, I pushed back and asked them to reconsider. 

I pointed out that millennial and gen Z consumers would expect an act of support for this critical moment in social justice and would reward it with future purchases and word of mouth. I tried to convey that not only was this the right thing to do just by virtue of being the right thing to do, but that it also made business sense as more and more consumers shopped with their conscience.

The response I received was shocking and nonsensical. “It would jeopardize our business. If we support Black Lives Matter now, we’ll be on the hook to support Hispanic Lives Matter or whatever else comes next.” (This from a company with a majority Hispanic labor force is concerning on multiple levels). 

It was also steeped in white saviorism. “The owners support an orphanage in Africa. It doesn’t get more Black than that.” 

I was told that my judgment would be questioned by leadership if I kept pushing the issue. The message was clear: Drop it. 

I liked my job. I was good at my job. I was a leader and mentor to my team. But I knew after this series of events that I would be leaving. There was no way that I could continue being the voice of a company that wouldn’t use its platform to stand up for what was right. 

It turns out that I’m not the only one who has had similar experiences since the swell of support for the Black Lives Matter movement over the summer of 2020 and beyond. 

In an article from Vice, three people tell their stories of conflicts between their conscience and their jobs. 

Alex, 27, worked in digital marketing for a UK university and asked several times for the university to release a statement of solidarity. He was also reprimanded for posting on Instagram in support of BLM, an echo of my own experience. When the university finally did post, they were as vague as possible and didn’t back up their words with any meaningful action. Alex decided to resign after this experience. Alex is white and used his privilege to advocate for the Black students who expected more support from their university. 

Tia (name changed), 19, also shared a story about a lack of response to the Black Lives Matter movement by her large, national employer. At the time of the Vice article, she was still working there, but noted that she was the only Black employee in her workplace, and the silence of her company — and her coworkers — was causing her to question how long she could stay there.

Kayla (name changed), 26, brought yet another story of an employer not doing anything at all to acknowledge the movement or its employees of color. Kayla is from a multi-racial family and left her job because of the silence and lack of support. 

Mother Jones also featured a collection of stories about people who quit their jobs during the COVID pandemic, some of them in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Priya Krishna quit Bon Appétit Test Kitchen after the George Floyd protests and calls for transparency led to the Test Kitchen’s video contractors to start sharing their payment rates with each other for transparency’s sake. They found that the content creators of color were grossly underpaid while the white creators had much more lucrative contracts. After attempting to negotiate, several creators chose to quit rather than be treated as less than.

One of the most surprising stories was that of an Atlanta police officer, Tom Gissler, who was witnessing profiling and gentrification, describing it as like being in a mafia. 

If you tried to do a good job and say, “I’m going to be a good cop, and I’m going to obey commands,” they would abandon you, charge you, leave you behind, and not even think twice. If you didn’t obey the rules, then they were gonna charge you for that. And if you tried to remain quiet and do your job, you are going to be a piece of modern-day redlining that way, too. There was no way that I could exist and feel good about it. And because I didn’t have to—and that’s the privilege part—I just decided not to.

There are countless other stories just like these, untold. We are experiencing a radical shift in the way people engage with brands and companies, both in purchasing and employment.

The Privilege of Living Your Values

I had the privilege to walk away from a job due to my conscience. Not many people can do that. 

Our society is built to keep people about one paycheck away from poverty, so they must choose between keeping a steady income, access to healthcare, and feeding their family — or standing up for their beliefs and having the privilege to enforce a boundary like I was able to do, or like the other people like Alex and Tom, who used their privilege to take a stand.

If you have the means to do so, consider using a position of privilege (whiteness, in my case), to stand up for those who don’t have the ability. Point out inequality at work. Ask about the lowest paid workers. Speak up when your female coworker’s idea is ignored and then repeated by a man and accepted. Put your pronouns in your email signature.

If you’re job searching, you can check potential employers’ websites and social media to see what they were talking about in June 2020, and ask them about diversity and inclusion during the interview process. 

And if you can’t do these things, it’s not a failing on your part. It is more than okay if your focus is to survive and take care of yourself and those who depend on you. Those of us with privilege should be using it to protect and uplift you.

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How to Hear Your Inner Voice

Are you someone who struggles to cut through all the noise in your mind to find what you really need from your inner voice and intuition? It’s not uncommon, especially for people with a history of trauma who have become hypervigilant to others’ emotional cues.

In trauma, we learned to be aware of the slightest shift in others’ energy, because it might mean punishment or an abusive outburst if we didn’t tiptoe on the eggshells.

If you’re constantly on the lookout for other people’s frustrations, fears, and emotions, your mind can get cluttered with the ceaseless chatter of everyone else’s thoughts and feelings, and your own thoughts about what those other people are thinking and feeling, leaving you feeling totally lost when it comes to tuning in to your own inner voice.

And your voice is in there, deep down, knowing what you need.

I remember one of the biggest culture shocks of visiting the UK for the first time — the TV was always on and people were having multiple conversations in the same room. It put me into meltdown mode and I had to leave the room or the house several times due to the overstimulation of all that noise happening at once.

It’s happened at work too, when I worked in a large shared office space. One coworker would often call another on speakerphone, despite being only a few paces away. I could hardly concentrate on my own work when there were so many conversations happening around me.

That’s what it’s like when you’re trying to listen to your inner voice and everything else is taking up the valuable space in your mind.

It might be your own surface level thoughts, about what to make for dinner or what needs to go on the grocery list or something nagging you from your to-do list that you keep putting off. I often have trouble sleeping because I can’t stop thinking

It might be deeper thoughts about things that have happened to you or grief or replaying a conversation in your head that you wish had gone differently.

It might be thoughts about other people, either worrying about them or feeling their own energy and mood affecting yours, or even wondering what they would think of your decision about something.

So when it comes time to reflect on what you really truly want or need, cutting through all these layers of thoughts can feel impossible.

For instance, I quit my full time job earlier this year. I had been struggling with the decision for a while, because I felt like I had to exhaust my options trying to deal with a management problem before I called it quits. I thought about what others would think of me quitting, what my team would think, what my partner would think, even what my mom would think (and I don’t even talk to my mom).

Quitting would mean giving up a great salary, letting go of the on-again-off-again promise of a promotion and raise, leaving a great team that I had been mentoring and was so proud to lead, and feeling like I was starting over all over again.

Finally, a last straw moment happened for me and I knew without a doubt that I had to leave the company. My inner voice became so loud that no amount of other thoughts could muffle it, and I started looking for a new job. I set myself a deadline on giving my notice whether or not I had something else lined up, and on June 30 I gave my notice.

I have never regretted it, because I know that it was the right thing to do as my next step in life.

Here’s how to access your inner voice:

Ready for the big, huge, life changing secret? Here it is: It varies from person to person and there’s no one way to do it.

Did you think I was going to say meditate? I am bad at meditating, so I am not going to tout it as the best way for you to access your inner knowing. But for some, meditating might be the perfect way to allow the surface thoughts to drift away, quieting the mind in order to access what is beneath. If you want to meditate, try a guided meditation from YouTube or an app like Headspace to get the basics down.

You might also benefit from journaling, letting yourself push through the surface thoughts, the deeper thoughts, all the way down to the truth in the pit of your stomach about the next right thing to do.

Maybe your thing is tarot, oracle readings, runes, or another spiritual ritual. If you have trouble sorting out the noise in your thoughts, spend some time with your cards or runes focusing on your inner wisdom. Burn some incense (not sage, palo santo, or anything else appropriated from other cultures’ sacred practices) to cleanse away those surface thoughts and your thoughts about others. This is a time just for you. Then pull your cards and trust that they are from your innermost knowing.

As you notice that something feels like it’s tugging on something deeper, pull on the thread and follow it. You might find associations from your more surface level thoughts (“I’m angry about this breakup because he never apologized to me for hurting me”) down to related experiences (“My parents never apologized for hurting me either”) further down into a more fundamental truth that will help shape your future experiences (“For me, someone needs to have the same apology language as I do if a long-term relationship is going to work out, and it’s okay to have that boundary.”)

There are as many ways to disconnect from all that brain-noise as there are people in the world, so try several ideas and see what works for you. Here are some other ideas:

  • Call a friend or family member and just talk and listen to each other. Sometimes deep knowing comes out when you’re connecting with others and listening to them. I’ve had big “WOW moments” when talking to others that are as helpful me as they are to them.
  • Watch a candle or incense burn. This is meditation-adjacent, but just watching a candle or an incense stick burn can give you something to focus your surface attention on, letting your mind wander and process things while your attention is occupied.
  • Exercise. When I used to run, I often let my mind wander and process things in the background. It happened most often when I ran outside (something about being among trees and nature with fresh air is really good for feeling disconnected from brain-noise) but I had a few great runs at the gym too. Also, yoga can be a great way to access inner knowing, as the breath focus in yoga and holding certain poses can open up mindfulness and meditative calm. There’s something about relaxing into a pretzel shape and just being cool with it that helps you untangle the pretzel of your thoughts as well.
  • Create your own ritual. Take bits and pieces of different ideas here to create your own inner voice ritual. Drink a certain kind of tea, journal in a certain notebook, burn a certain scent of candle or incense. The more you practice with these ritual elements, the quicker you can get into the “inner voice” mindset when you use them.

In all these situations, disconnecting from technology for a while can do wonders for quieting the mind. We’re so used to being “on” all the time (I’ve been known to open up Facebook on my phone when I’m literally already on Facebook on my laptop, just out of habit) that putting our phones down, turning off music or TV, and just being quiet feels strange.

But in that quiet, you can finally cut through all the noise in your mind to hear what’s underneath.

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My Quest for a Fat-Friendly Doctor

I’m fat, I’m happy, I’m chronically ill, and I deserve good medical care.

Content Warning: This post discusses my experience with an eating disorder and over-exercise, as well as medical and casual fatphobia, menstruation, chronic illness, and also mentions cancer and death of a family member.

I used to love going to the doctor when I was deeply entrenched in my eating disorder. They’d tsk tsk at me about my BMI, but my blood work always came back beautiful, and they had nothing to really complain about. I told them how much I worked out, how I ate a clean, vegan diet (or a clean, paleo diet or a clean, smoothie every day diet). They were impressed.

I was killing myself.

A hundred pounds down from my highest weight, I was starving myself in the name of health and compulsively over-exercising. Sure, I was “thin,” but I would never be done. There would never be a point where I was satisfied, even if I did reach the goal I had to lose half my body weight.

I was inspired (read: haunted) by before and after photos, goal bodies, and the latest diet. I did intermittent fasting, I went gluten free, I cut out sugar. The weight dropped. Doctors were impressed, and my friends and family oohed and aahed over my transformation.

But my body ached constantly, I realized I could not relax my muscles no matter how hard I tried, I was barely sleeping, my face was broken out, my eyes looked like I was constantly on the verge of tears, and if I blinked for too long putting on my running shoes in the morning, I’d fall asleep on the couch and beat myself up over not caring enough. My periods were so intensely painful that I would regularly vomit from the pain and be covered in sweat, and I continued chasing the cleanest diet possible, believing that when I found the right diet, it would end my period pain.

#Goals.

The Last Weight Loss Resolution

In January 2019, less than a year after leaving an abusive marriage and losing my stepdad to lung cancer, I once again decided I was going to get back on track with my health.

I thought that meant losing weight, but I ended up changing my entire life in a new way.

After a month of tracking food, I realized my eating had become disordered yet again, even when I wasn’t trying to “diet,” I was just trying to “build better habits.” I started researching online and found The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Dooner and Health At Every Size by Lindo Bacon. These books and outlooks changed my entire life.

I realized I didn’t just have a “disordered relationship with food,” I had a full blown eating disorder. A medical condition, not bad habits or a lack of self control.

I quit dieting, cold turkey.

I stopped working out, because I could not disengage exercise from the goal of weight loss.

I gained weight, but I expected it and was okay with it — for once.

What I didn’t expect was for fatphobia to come rushing at me as soon as I broke the spell of my eating disorder. Sometimes people are only okay with your fatness if you’re trying to change it and become smaller.

After three weeks, the partner I lived with announced to me that I was too fat for him. (That’s paraphrased. What he said was, “You’re approaching the upper limit of weight I find attractive.”)

At my next physical at a doctor I previously loved, she noted my weight gain and asked me point blank if I ate vegetables. Despite me telling her that I was in recovery from an eating disorder.

When I posted about my recovery on Facebook, I had supporters. But I noticed quickly that the number of people encouraging and celebrating my body changes were far less in number than they were when I was deteriorating before their eyes in the name of fitness.

People love to celebrate shrinking bodies, regardless of your actual health.

Addressing My Health

2019 was a banner year for addressing my health.

Firstly, I got into therapy right away to address my eating disorder. Using EMDR, I addressed long-held beliefs like “I am not allowed to eat” and other triggering thought patterns, processing them until I had internalized a new belief: “I am allowed to eat.” We also worked on other trauma from my abusive childhood and marriage.

Previously believing that my full-body aches and muscle tension were proof my workouts were effective and that soreness was to be celebrated, I was confused to find myself still in pain even without exercise. A few doctor’s visits later, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and put on a daily pain medication.

I realized that my small Honda Fit was too low to the ground and was hurting my back when I got in and out, so I got a taller SUV. I bought a new mattress that was more supportive and comfortable.

Having eschewed Big Pharma’s medications and the risk of side effects from birth control, I had been charting my menstrual cycles as birth control for several years and finally accepted hormonal birth control pills as a treatment for probable endometriosis. My periods no longer hurt, nor are they so heavy that I Google symptoms to see if I’m dying.

After breaking up with my partner in May (three months after the “too fat” incident), we lived together for another few weeks before I moved into a new place. In one of our conversations about our breakup, he lamented that he simply couldn’t stand watching me in pain and not doing anything about it.

Fatphobia translation: You’re no longer trying to lose weight, which means you are not taking care of yourself.

Despite every doctor’s appointment I had been to, specialist I had seen, medication I had gone on to address my pain. Despite two major purchases to make my body more comfortable in my daily life. According to him, I was “not doing anything” about my pain now that I had stopped dieting and trying to lose weight.

My message to anyone dealing with chronic illness, eating disorder recovery, or mental health issues: You are doing the best you can. Other people’s problematic beliefs about what it means to try hard and be healthy have no bearing on what you are doing for yourself. You do not have to do yoga, eat kale, go gluten free, or get acupuncture in order to be worthy of rest, nourishment, and the accommodations you need to get through your day. Your weight is not an indicator of your health — and also, your health is not an indicator of your VALUE AS A PERSON.

Facing Medical Fatphobia

Since the incident with my doctor asking if I ate vegetables, I haven’t had a physical since. On top of the risk of medical fatphobia and the frustration of trying to find a fat-friendly doctor, there’s a global pandemic raging and going to a doctor in 2020 has not been at the top of my priority list.

However, I have been resting and taking better care of myself mentally and physically for nearly two years now, and I know that checking in medically to make sure my body is doing well is important. I don’t want to let potential issues go unchecked because I’m afraid of the doctor. I want to know that my blood work is still good and I am in good health, besides the obvious chronic illnesses I’m already treating.

But I also want to be compassionate with myself, because there is trauma here. My mother blamed her mom’s death on the fact that Grandma was fat and didn’t go to the doctor. “Do you want to be like Grandma?” echoes in my head when I struggle to bend over and put on socks (Between my fat and my fibromyalgia, sometimes bending is rough, even if I can do a forward fold from a cold start).

According to my mom, if Grandma hadn’t been fat, she would have gone to the doctor more often, and they would have found her cervical cancer earlier.

But maybe the problem isn’t fat people avoiding the doctor. It’s the abuse we face when we’re at the office.

So often, fat people’s medical concerns are waved away and not addressed until we lose weight. But we deserve medical care in the bodies we are in now.

Resolving not to go back to the doctor who made me uncomfortable, I set out to find a new one that would provide the care I deserved.

How to Find a Fat Friendly Doctor

I started, as most of us do, with a Google search. “Fat friendly doctor list,” and “Fat friendly doctor database” led me to a few outdated resources. “Fat friendly doctor Cleveland” wasn’t much better.

I tried the Health at Every Size website. Luck! There was a search tool to find community resources including fat friendly doctors. I clicked “Physician” and searched in Ohio and got exactly one result back. She was in Cleveland. And, after checking my insurance website, she was in my network.

I cannot even begin to tell you how much privilege is involved in finding one fat friendly doctor in my state who is only four miles away and is also covered by my insurance. Not everyone has access and choice when it comes to their medical providers, but for those who do, a resource like the registry from HAES can be extremely helpful.

When I scheduled an appointment in the online portal on the doctor’s website, I commented that I found her on a list of fat friendly doctors from Health at Every Size. I will also decline being weighed and ask not discuss weight loss during my appointment.

If we need to discuss cholesterol, or blood sugar, or blood pressure, we can discuss those things and their treatments without it being about weight.

Remember: doctors are people we hire and pay to provide medical services. If these people we hire and pay act abusively toward us, we should stop employing them.

It can be hard to make the change, because sometimes the anxiety and uncertainty of trying a new doctor feels as scary as facing the one you know mistreats you, but it is my hope that everyone can find medical providers who are compassionate and body-positive for all patients regardless of size and health status.

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My 2021 Resolution: Cut Plastic Waste by 50%

Did I seek out the most White Vegan Mason Jar photo I could find? Yes. Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash (no offense intended, Ella, I am making fun of me, not you).

I’m a fairly eco-friendly person.

I have a cupboard full of Pyrex that I use for food storage. I buy cleaning supplies from sustainable brands and make my own (baking soda can do just about anything). I bought in bulk instead of plastic in the pre-pandemic days. I use cloth menstrual pads.

I could be doing better.

This fall, I’ve been working for an environmental nonprofit, and I learned so much about the toll that plastic waste has on the planet. I want to reduce my impact on the planet, starting with my plastic consumption.

I wrote before about the ways my ethical eating habits have changed in recovery from an eating disorder. To be transparent, plastic guilt may present a challenge for me to make sure I am keeping my mental health top of mind while also making a change to my eating habits that involves rules and morality. We are going on an adventure, my friends.

Hopefully, I can find easy and accessible ways to reduce plastic and waste that I can share with readers while keeping things honest and authentic. (Because honestly, I think it’s near impossible to actually go plastic-FREE in our world).

My Plastic Free-Ish Plan

  1. Thirty Day Plastic Journal: Much like a food journal many of us had to keep in high school health class to learn about food groups, I plan on keeping a journal of my plastic use for the next thirty days to see how much plastic I’m using in my everyday life.
  2. Easy Swaps: For the easy swaps, I’m going to research alternatives and make the switch to a plastic-free option. I’ll include some of the obvious ones below.
  3. Harder Swaps: For the more challenging swaps and habits, I’ll do a bit more research and get back to you on those results! Hopefully the easy ones make a big dent.
  4. Homemade Foods: This one scares me, because I don’t always have the energy or stamina to cook from scratch due to chronic illness, and convenience foods and takeout are life savers for me. But I read an article today about a tofu factory that burns plastic for fuel, and I realized that trying to make my own tofu is worth the effort even if I can only do it once in a while. (Scroll down past the homemade tofu recipe in this blog for the plastic story).
  5. Plan to Re-Use/Recycle: My city is not currently recycling, and even when we are recycling, most recyclables end up in a landfill anyway due to contamination from improper contents. I’m driving my aluminum cans and paper to respective recycling spots locally, but there’s no solution for plastic. I’d like to research solutions for non-avoidable plastic like this donation program for medicine bottles.
  6. Implement Operation 50% Less Plastic 2021: Complete avoidance of plastic in my life is impossible, but I would like to reduce my personal single use plastic usage by half in 2021. I’m giving myself the month of December to prepare and take notes on my average use, so I have something to compare against. And then it’s onward to a more eco-friendly 2021 and beyond!

Easy Swaps to Reduce Plastic

In the kitchen:

  • Glass jars instead of using plastic baggies for chopped veggie storage and easy snack portions
  • Dishwasher powder in a paper box instead of plastic containers of pods
  • Beeswax wrap instead of plastic wrap
  • Reusable water bottles instead of single-use bottles
  • Sticks of margarine instead of plastic tubs
  • Hard Mode: Homemade foods instead of pre-packaged

In the bathroom:

  • Bar soap instead of body wash and bottled hand soap
  • Bar shampoo and conditioner instead of bottled
  • Homemade face scrub instead of bottled
  • Zero-waste toothpaste bits and bamboo/compostable toothbrush instead of plastic tubes of toothpaste and toothbrushes

In the laundry room:

  • Zero-waste laundry detergent strips instead of plastic containers
  • Wash in cold water to reduce the amount of microplastics that escape from polyester (yeah, I didn’t know that was a thing either).

At the grocery store

  • Reusable produce bags
  • Reusable grocery bags
  • Bring-your-own container instead of plastic for bulk bins
  • Fresh produce instead of bagged produce (if able)

I am actually excited to start this little adventure and I hope to inspire some of you to learn and change your daily habits along with me!

When You Don’t Feel Like Yourself

Photo by Allan Bueno on Unsplash

I haven’t felt like myself lately.

I used to always be there for everyone around me with a pep talk for every situation. I listened to people’s problems, authentically gave them an ear, and told them that it was okay to not be okay — but that they were great and deserved great things.

I used to check in on my Facebook page asking if people had taken their meds, eaten, and had water. It was a nice reminder for my friends and for me to practice these basic tenets of self maintenance.

I used to laugh, a lot. I shared funny posts on Facebook and made people laugh at parties or when we were out at the local geek bar playing board games. I loved being the funny friend who always got a laugh.

I used to write every day. I used to work 8+ hours a day at my full time job and then work on my passion project developing my course or writing my book.

January wasn’t that long ago, when I hoped to get two book deals, run my course three or four times, and launch a full time coaching practice this year.

Now, I rest. I sleep in past 8am. I eat when I’m hungry, nap when I’m tired, and work part time at a job I truly enjoy.

I write when the words need to come out. Like they do now, when I thought to myself, “I haven’t been myself lately” and the response that floated back up from inside me was “Yes, you have.”

I’m always myself. My self is the part of me I need to take care of, because I didn’t used to do a very good job of it. My self has been subjected to a lot of beliefs about what I needed to achieve and how I needed to behave in order to deserve love and support and a salary.

My self, right now, needs to rest and recover from burning out at that full time job. My self is processing the fact that my social circle has been tinier than ever for the past eight months. My self is understanding that the shiny, happy, warm, cozy, family parts of the winter months aren’t happening this year.

My self has always been here, and is not measured by how frequently I give of myself to other people.

Looking at the list of things that I thought made me who I was — listening, encouraging, checking in, writing, working — those things are all still happening. Just slower and less frequent than before. And that’s okay.

My self is here. My self is growing stronger, I can feel it.

Last night I applied to a dream job and I woke up feeling peaceful and content. Because my self was peaceful and content.

I sleep better when I’m next to my partner, because my self is safe and loved and warm.

I can write a new post whenever I feel ready to put the words onto the page, because my self is not defined by how often I write. (Sometimes my job is defined by writing, but my self is not).

If I don’t feel like myself, it’s probably because I’m focusing too much on things outside of me instead of my actual, inner truth of knowing my self.

So if you don’t feel like yourself lately, it’s okay to not be okay. We’re going through a long-term, no-end-in-sight, global trauma together. We have no idea when we will feel safe again. Our collective mental health is touch and go.

But your self, the deep down parts of you that make you who you are inside, they’re not gone. They’re resting, being slow, and they will be there when you are ready for them again.

Love,
Caitlin

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Celebrate Biden’s Win, But We Still Have Work to Do

Photo by Hybrid on Unsplash

I went to sleep on election night 2016 confident that I would wake up to our country’s first female president, and I awoke the next morning and felt ice in my stomach.

Many of my friends said that they cried during election night and the morning after. I didn’t cry, I just felt numb and vaguely angry.

I was optimistic that he wouldn’t do as much damage as we feared. Certainly there were the checks and balances we learned in school that would keep him from doing so much harm.

I was wrong.

He harmed us. He harmed again and again and again. He harmed people of color. He harmed transgender people. He harmed the queer community. He harmed women. He harmed immigrants. He harmed Muslims.

Donald Trump ruled the country on a white supremacist power trip.

And today, Saturday, November 7, 2020, AP has called the 2020 election for Joe Biden.

A candidate I almost didn’t vote for because I was so deeply angry at the Democratic party. I still am. I think the Democrats are more of the same establishment, but they pretend to care about minorities. They’ll put a rainbow flag and a Black fist in their twitter bios while they don’t do anything to stop an unqualified right-wing Supreme Court nominee from being shoved onto the court just weeks before an election.

I resolved myself to the fact that voting for Biden was necessary. Our two party system and the electoral college are absolute trash, but they are the trash we currently live in, so I played by the rules. I voted for Biden.

And I cried today when the election was called for him because the wave of relief across my Facebook feed, from my poor friends, my Black friends, my queer friends, my disabled friends, was so palpable that it hit me hard. And their relief, even among all my cynicism and eye rolling at the Dems, was my relief too.

The work is not done. Not by a long shot.

But for now, we can breathe, and we know that we will not have to fight against active hatred coming from the White House for another four years.

We aren’t “safe” yet. But we can pause and make plans to organize and work for a more just and equitable government under an administration that isn’t inciting violence and throwing temper tantrums

Organizers of Color Made This Possible

This election result is possible because of the immense effort of organizers of color. The phenomenal organizing in Georgia by Stacey Abrams, Helen Butler, Nsé Ufot, Tamieka Atkins, and Deborah Scott led to nearly one million new voter registrations and an unprecedented Democratic voter turnout that turned Georgia blue.

Los Angeles Times: Celebs bow down to Stacey Abrams as Georgia flips blue in Biden’s favor

Indigenous organizing led to voter turnout shifts in Arizona and Wisconsin, which were called for Biden, as well as Montana and South Dakota, which were called for Trump — but the counties with high populations of Indigenous voters were overwhelmingly blue.

High Country News: How Indigenous voters swung the 2020 election

Remember when 53% of white women voted for Trump in 2016, and all the liberal white women were shocked? This year, 55% of white women voted for Trump. The success of the Biden campaign came from people of color, specifically Black women like Stacey Abrams.

Celebrate, but it’s not over

Take some time today to celebrate this win. But remember that it’s nowhere near “over.” Donald Trump was not the cause of the racism, islamophobia, homophobia, and other hatred that has been on full display over the last four years. This country is steeped in white supremacy, protections for the rich, and oppression of the working class.

We still need to talk about police brutality. We still need to talk about the school to prison pipeline. We still need to talk about cannabis convictions. We still need to talk about the racism baked into every system in this country. We still need to make an actual plan to address climate change. We still need to talk about the concentration camps full of kids in cages. We still need to talk about COVID. We still need to talk about the minimum wage. We still need to talk about medicare for all.

We still have work to do.

If you’re relieved to the point of tears today, thank a Black activist!

How to Eat Ethically When You’re Recovering from an Eating Disorder

Photo by N I F T Y A R T ✍🏻 on Unsplash

My mother put me on my first diet when I was twelve.

I still remember the way she traced a circle in the palm of her hand to show our babysitter how big three ounces of meat was, to monitor our serving sizes. I also remember choking down raw broccoli and bell peppers — two foods I cannot eat raw without feeling ill, twenty years later. 

I became a vegetarian in 2002 when I was in eighth grade, for the animals. Around age 17, I became vegan entirely, but added eggs and dairy back into my diet quickly because it was nearly impossible to stay vegan in an omnivorous home. I remained steadfastly vegetarian through college.

Since then, I’ve been on-again-off-again with animal products, but I chose more ethical products from local farms and sustainable sources. 

I was always struggling to find a diet that felt okay ethically, while also balancing the desire to lose weight. Was it meat? Was it veganism? Was it raw veggies? Was it paleo? Was it keto? Was it intermittent fasting?

I aspired to be vegan because it felt like the most ethical, cleanest way to eat. But even a plant-based diet isn’t without cruelty and harm. 

When Your Quest for the Perfect Diet is Killing You 

After realizing in huge, blaring, neon letters in my mind last February that I had a full blown eating disorder, I stopped dieting altogether. I stopped counting calories, started eating tortillas at Chipotle again, and even ate refined sugar without hating myself.

I let all the rules about food fall away, leaving only the need to eat when I was hungry and trusting myself to do so. 

In this period of recovery, I had to let my aspirational veganism go. First, because eating eggs was a way I could actually eat something consistently without needing to fight with my mental health. Second, because a plant-based diet was something I was doing to change my body, rather than fuel it, and I needed a break from a weight loss mentality while recovering. And lastly, because literally nothing is perfect or without harm – not even a vegan diet.

The truth is, I needed to take care of myself. The weight of researching everything, measuring the validity of a food choice against its impact on animal welfare, human labor, carbon emissions, and everything else that goes into making a choice, was too heavy. My mental health suffered as I agonized over the morality of everything I ate. 

We Aren’t Winning Points 

Have you seen The Good Place? Spoilers ahead!

In The Good Place, when people on Earth die, they get sent to The Good Place or The Bad Place based on point totals of their actions during their lives. But as society developed, it became impossible to get into The Good Place even if you lived a perfect life, because every single action is more complex than it appears. 

Each tomato at the grocery store carries an invisible price tag of ethical costs. The pesticides degraded biodiversity in local insect life, the crops were harvested with prison labor or other exploitative practices, the seeds were patented and those patents were used to sue small local farmers when the wind deposited an errant seed on their land. 

Or, to quote Chidi Anagonye four times:

  • “Oh no! I used almond milk in my coffee, even though I knew about the negative environmental impact.” 
  • “I read an article saying that growing almonds was bad for the environment, and yet I continued to use almond milk in my coffee.” 
  • “Well, if it is Hell, I know why I’m here. Almond milk. I drank so much of it despite the negative environmental impacts.”
  • “So, we’re in the Bad Place, and I know why. Almond milk. I knew it was bad for the environment, but I loved the way it coated my tongue in a weird film.”

We cannot eat perfectly ethically in a society that prioritizes profit over people, over animal welfare, and over environmental sustainability. Corporate responsibility is so much bigger than individual action can hope to overcome. 

What does this have to do with my eating disorder? I was focused so much on eating only clean, healthy, safe foods that I would starve myself rather than eat something that wasn’t organic, wasn’t gluten-free, wasn’t sugar-free, etc. If it didn’t satisfy the rules of the clean eating deities of the day, it wasn’t okay to eat. 

Hungry after 8pm? Go to bed hungry, the rules say you can’t eat. Refined grains only once a day. Eat fruit on an empty stomach. Make everything out of cauliflower. 

I also continued my trauma around being forced to eat “healthy snacks” (usually raw vegetables I did not enjoy) as a child. I would pack carrots in my lunch and tell myself all day, “If you’re not hungry enough to eat the carrots, you’re not hungry.” I hate raw carrots. I starved myself thinking it was good for me. 

I could only eat perfect, healthy food. Learning something new about each food became dangerous. And so my list of foods it wasn’t okay to eat grew and grew, leaving me with precious little I could eat to sustain myself. 

Only sprouted grain bread. Only organic potatoes. Only grass-fed beef. Only half an apple. Only what fits in these containers. 

But we don’t have running point totals guiding the morality of our choices — dietary or otherwise. We can only do the best we can with the resources, information, and ability available to us. 

I still care about the ethics of my food choices. But I have to eat. I have to nourish myself. I have to let some of the rules relax. 

Rather than only eating certain things, what if our only job was to do our best and listen to what our bodies need? 

Being Okay with Imperfection

I eat cage-free eggs, and I eat fish. I am otherwise plant-based in my diet. I limit consumption of foods with a high human cost, such as quinoa (once an affordable staple in South America, now exorbitantly expensive and used as an export for our White American Vegan needs). I buy fair-trade coffee and chocolate. I should get back into the habit of buying the Dirty Dozen organic, but I don’t always. I try to buy whole, fresh foods without packaging, but I have fibromyalgia and sometimes my ability and energy level means I need to buy a bag of pre-chopped fresh or frozen veggies. 

And the imperfection is okay.

I cannot be perfect. But I can feed myself.

How to Eat Ethically When You’re Recovering from an Eating Disorder

Your first priority in eating while recovering from an eating disorder is to feed yourself and work on the mental health aspects of your recovery. But as you get further into recovery you may want to start investigating more sustainable and ethical food choices. However, if you find yourself feeling triggered or backsliding into disordered eating, please take a break and focus again on just feeding yourself and taking care of you. 

If it is not triggering to place limits on food in your recovery, you can start to do research into the sustainability and ethics of your food. 

Certifications and labels can help you check at a glance if a product meets certain standards. But sometimes labels can say things that sound nice but don’t actually have any standards attached. This can be hard to navigate as you start exploring more ethical food, so this list should break down what to look for as a next step on more ethical eating. 

Though certifications and labels may not be perfect, they do help us to vote with our dollars and show brands that people are willing to purchase products that prioritize more ethical and sustainable methods. The more people can purchase with ethics in mind, the more the market will shift to provide more options that meet those demands. 

  • Certified Organic: USDA Organic certification means that produce was grown without synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, sewage sludge, and irradiation. Organic also clarifies that the product contains no Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Organic animal products come from animals that meet welfare standards including outdoor access, no antibiotics or growth hormone treatments, and were fed an organic diet. Packaged organic products are made with at least 95% certified organic source ingredients. Note: Organic crops are still treated with pesticides, but they must be approved for organic use — always wash those fruits and veggies. Learn more about the USDA Organic label at the USDA website. You don’t have to buy everything organic — check out the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen list to learn which fruits and veggies are best purchased organic due to high pesticide levels. 
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified: Rainforest Alliance certifies farms that meet certain criteria, including environmental sustainability standards (climate-smart agriculture, deforestation, conserving biodiversity), working conditions standards (human rights, shared responsibility, living wage, gender equality), and more. You can check out all their standards at the Rainforest Alliance website
  • Fair Trade: A fair trade certification can be found on food, clothing, and other items that tend to have exploitative labor practices in their conventional production. A fair trade label protects against child labor, slavery, discrimination, union-busting, and environmental pollution – among so many other standards. This is a great label to start with if you want to move toward more ethical consumption. Coffee and chocolate are two major crops that benefit from a shift toward fair trade purchases. (Aldi is a great low-cost option for both of these!) Learn more from Fair Trade Certified and Fairtrade International, two organizations working toward more sustainable agriculture that prioritizes human rights. 
  • Certified Humane: Certified Humane is a nonprofit seeking to improve the lives of animals used in agriculture, and the organization is endorsed by 70 humane associations including the ASPCA. Like all things, they’re not perfect, but they make an effort. You can look up their standards for all animals on their website and decide for yourself if they meet the standards you have for your animal products. 
  • Cage Free: There are actually a lot of “cage free” standards depending on the certifying organization, and they are also (unsurprisingly) not perfect. But they do require chickens to be kept in better conditions than overcrowded factory farms. Check out this article from the Humane Society of the US on different cage free, free range, and other labels you might see. 

You can also shop more locally from farmer’s markets, local farms, and people who keep backyard hens for eggs — this way you can directly ask the source of your food what sort of practices they put into their produce and animal products. 

Access to Food is a Privilege

It is crucial to acknowledge the privilege in access to higher quality, organic, and local foods. Many people across the globe, including those of us in the United States, simply don’t have access to affordable food that meets every checkbox. 

It may be nutritionally ideal to eat fresh, organic, local produce that’s in season — but not everyone can. Whether due to budget, access to the stores and markets that provide these foods, the time it takes to shop and prepare meals while balancing work, life, and family responsibilities, etc. 

No diet is perfect or without consequence, from environmental effects to animal welfare to human exploitation. So please, do the best you can, and know that it is good enough. 

And for those people who would judge others for the food they can access and the time and energy they can put into researching foods (and I have been that judgmental person)… know that everyone is doing their best, and spend your energy donating to causes that help address food insecurity and advocating for better animal welfare and human rights in our agricultural systems. 

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