The Introvert’s Guide to Making Change

  • Posted on: 8 March 2017
  • By: Rachel

My coworkers today may not realize, but up until recently, I’ve always been extremely shy. As a kid, I preferred books over people. I’ve never held a solid group of friends of more than 3 people- I get too nervous in “crowds”. Public speaking, going to parties, job interviews- nightmarish.

I’ve grown up a little since, mostly because moving out forced me to interact a little. I’ve also found a little more confidence. Being in the spotlight will never be my thing, and that’s okay. But even now, I run into some problems. It feels like in today’s world, you have to be able to handle an awful lot of attention in order to make change. I’ve abandoned many a campaign idea or activist event because they involved getting a group together, or marching in a big, yelling bunch of people, or asking large amounts of people to pay attention to and support my idea (oh man).

I get very, very frustrated with myself over this, and it’s easy to feel like you need to be a certain amount of extraverted, or at least confident, to make change. I have found myself feeling guilty for not having the personality traits of an activist. Shaming myself for being too anxious to attend protests I supported with all my heart.

But here’s the thing- that’s just not true! It may not be immediately obvious, but anyone can be an activist, regardless of how much spotlight you prefer. So I made this:

The Introvert’s Guide to Making Change

1. Quiet but Powerful

There are, in fact, a lot of things you can do that do not involve sharing an angry post, or standing in a group of people, or even talking to anyone. One big thing is donating. For example, when the Muslim Ban happened, I wasn’t able to protest or post. In fact, I wasn’t really able to do much at all. But I was able to find some kickass organizations to donate to. The lawyers working to help people detained at airports, for example. Canadian organizations supporting refugees, which were about to get an influx because many the States were turning away, Canada was accepting.  There were various awesome crowdfunding campaigns doing cool stuff that were in need of donors, too. I’m a student- I do not have a ton of money. But every bit helps, and if I can spend two dollars a day on tea, I can spend a bit for a cause I believed in.

There are other “quiet” ways of providing support, but my point is: just because you can’t be vocal, doesn’t make you any less of a ChangeMaker.

2. Be a Stellar Supporter

This one applies particularly to running a wellness campaign. There are a couple ways to do this. For one, there are sneaky ways of running a campaign while avoiding the spotlight. Recently, UW’s WPIRG did a campaign really similar to Humans of New York. They featured pictures of students with whiteboards, describing how mental health affected their lives as students. Was it effective? Absolutely. Was it impactful? Hell yes. Do I even know who initiated it? Nope. The campaign in and of itself highlighted other people, and told their stories, and made a difference. And there’s lots of creative ways that you could do that too! Think about it.

Another way that you can do this is find a campaign doing awesome stuff, and offer your skills. That’s the beauty of wellness campaigns- no one person can do them alone, so they’re often built together with the power of community. But because it’s online, you may never even have to meet them face to face. And you definitely don’t need to spearhead something to make a difference. If you’ve got artistic talent, if you’re a marketing whiz, if you can crunch numbers or write well- all these things are great assets to a campaign.

I am able to be a stellar supporter through Be Change. Although I don’t spearhead anything, I have been able to use writing and marketing to empower other youth doing awesome stuff. And there’s nowhere I feel I fit in better.

Think of a talent you have. Chances are, you can find some way to apply it to a campaign you love. Get creative!

3. Small Steps

Pick one thing you really care about, and push yourself. Slowly.

I have found that when something really, really matters to me, I can slowly, tentatively, begin to go public about it. It can start with a shared post, continue with a vague reference on social media. I have found it’s best to try this with a problem that really frustrates you, something that keeps you up at night- that one thing you wish everyone knew about. For me, that issue was mental health- specifically, the youth suicide crisis in Canada. I’m not saying I became a spokesperson overnight. It started with a couple of shared articles on Facebook. One time I posted ambiguously about self care. But each time I did this and nothing horrific happened to me, it gave me a bit more confidence to keep going, keep seeing how far I could go. I shared Bell Let’s Talk! I tagged my friend in an anxiety meme! I went to a community meeting! Did I say anything? Not that first time. But I got in the door, and that was the first step. And now I’m planning my first wellness project.

So take it from me, Anxiety Girl Extrordinaire- introverts can do it too. Whether you are supporting others, quietly making a difference, or working up the courage for the spotlight, you can do it. So let’s go.