Activism for introverts and shy changemakers

Ever since I was a teenager, I've been trying to figure out how to help out on the topics that interest me. But I am also introverted. I tried joining environmental protection groups, but their style of campaigning wore me out. I usually left a meeting feeling like I did not belong. Why did I not feel energized by their presence like so many of the other members?

Some of the groups also felt angrier than I was comfortable being. Don’t get me wrong, I admired those people greatly. They engaged and informed with such fierce intensity I could but stand in awe. But their style of activism mentally and physically exhausted me. Approaching a stranger on the street is not just stressful, but though is downright terrifying!

Then, a few years ago, I came across this TED talk by Sarah Corbett talking about how activism needs introverts. Not only did she talk about the exhaustion I felt wen trying to join activism groups, but also how we could create spaces for introverts in our activism too.

So if you feel like many activism spaces just aren’t for you, here are some ways introverts can be activists too. On our own terms!

Online activism

To many introverts, the world of the internet is an easier place to deal with. Here, we can control how, when, what and what volume, if any, we can tolerate at the time. We can close tabs and chose to revisit things at a later date. If ever. And there are so many things we can do online too!

  • Start a blog about the topic or topics we feel passionate about
  • Email local legislators about issues we care about
  • Communicate with other people in groups, forums, and other platforms
  • Write articles for other websites
  • Make videos or podcasts
  • And many more!

Live by example

It has been extraordinarily encouraging to me to see just how many people in your personal sphere you can touch by living by example and living your truths. I find it one of the kindest and most honest ways of activism I can think of.

If you are concerned about the plastic in the world, try to buy products in cardboard boxes or produce without plastic around it. Ask about it in your local grocery shop. No need to be angry about it. Just like voting with your wallet, the store clerks are not to blame. But if enough consumers ask about plastic-free produce, they might realize there is consumer interest, and perhaps even an advertizing opportunity.

Perhaps you pick up trash when out and about with friends. If they ask, say you are doing your bit to reduce what ends up in nature. If you believe animal agriculture is unkind, eat/buy less of it, and do your best to explain why when friends and family ask.

The beautiful thing about this kind of activism is that we are not trying to convince or be in opposition. We are simply living our lives as best we can according to our values. A lot of the times, I’ve found that people in my close circle will slowly and in small ways alter their behavior too. Perhaps they go on to explain their reasoning to other people too? In that way, the circle of influence grows.

Repair your things

Consumerism and capitalism go hand in hand, and both are destroying the planet we all share. By learning to repair what we own and shopping second-hand when we can, we extend the life of stuff that has already been produced before it heads to the landfill.

Darn your socks, make shopping bags out of old shirts. Mending holes in clothes in a visible way, such as with contrasting thread or in a pretty pattern is also sending a message. Let your beautiful and quirky mended clothes shout from the rooftops. We will not be cogs in the fast fashion machine!

Perhaps you can start a mending club or join one if your community already has one? Activism by crafts is often a softer way for introverts to socialize. As everyone is busy with the thing they are working on, socialization is less intense. I, for one, can stay for much longer in larger groups where group members have their hands engaged by something.

Get educated

Akin to living by example, we can do a lot of good by being well informed. Not only can this create better, deeper conversations with the people we care about, it can also open up new worlds.

Perhaps you’re the one to write a book about a topic because you just feel so passionately about it? Perhaps you have an idea about an engaging comic about a complicated or heavy topic, and do public outreach and education that way? A lot of us love to read and learn. If we can use it in gentle outreach that makes it even better!

Do the back-end work

If there is one thing I have learned about protest marches and activism groups – everything gets so much better if you know someone and do things with them. Protest marches by your lonesome do not feel terribly inspiring. But if an activism group is too much for you, perhaps you could ask a friend to join you?

There is also a lot of work that gets done in the big groups before a protest of any kind. There is deciding on the parole, writing/producing pamphlets, be a fact-checker, painting signs, often even costumes. Maybe they use the same costumes each year, but they are broken and in need of repair? You know what to do!

Getting uncomfortable

Smoothing the way for other people is something I find very engaging. You can be a part of everything, but without having the be the person in front. We need all kinds of people.

Of course, maybe people realize that you are well-spoken and thoughtful and want you to do some speaking too. Maybe you need to get uncomfortable to create the change you want. Maybe your creativity is spoken poetry and you need to grab that open microphone.

It’s okay to be uncomfortable. Sometimes we need to get uncomfortable to get done the things we need to do.

Just make sure you take real good care of yourself before and after, and there is not a thing we can’t do if we set our minds to it.

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4 thoughts on “Activism for introverts and shy changemakers

  1. Thank you so much for this! It was EXACTLY what I needed today, as I was thinking about ways to contribute to the world while practicing social distancing. I’m so glad this blog was started, and can’t wait for the next post!

  2. Thank you for a well-written piece that really spoke to me! I’m an introvert who likes to socialize, but like you I often feel that the activist communites are too angry or too confrontational. That’s something I’m not comfortable with at all, and therefore I often end up feeling that «this isn’t for me». But I’ve become more and more set on living according to my values, and like the idea that that’s a kind of activism too<3

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