Because you can’t care about everything: Activist burnout, guilt and love


You can’t care about everything.

That’s not quite true. You and I can care about a lot of things. Some things hit closer to home than others, but whenever I hear about something terrible or unfair I care about it. I care about manifold oppressions, sick kids, poverty, natural disasters. The person who just missed the bus on a rainy day. The people languishing unfairly in prison. The people being denied basic rights, or dealing with insidious unconscious prejudices that people don’t even know that they have. It’s all unfair. It’s all horrible. It all needs someone to do something about it.

You can’t care about everything.

Those of us of an activist or social justice bent, I think, can often get overwhelmed. We’re a bunch self-selected to notice things that are wrong with the world and to want to do something about it. We also tend to be reasonably aware of how we can do something.

Continue reading over at the Tea Cosy’s new home. 

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4 thoughts on “Because you can’t care about everything: Activist burnout, guilt and love

  1. Great piece. I would add that learning to love yourself (to be cheesy, once again) is very important before you can learn to really love, or understand, others. I’m talking about really knowing and accepting who we are, and why we’ve chosen to go into activism. Are we trying to prove something? Do we have high expectations? What is our end goal? Or is it more the process of activism that matters? These questions need to be asked. And you’re right – many activists are coming from a place of guilt, which can lead to worthy and heroic actions but ones which ultimately risk their lives and emotional wellbeing. Sometimes we need to address our own fragilities if we are to be truly effective in addressing the problems of others. Thanks for listing my transitioninmotion blog post.

  2. Love this. People always make fun of me because I’m “too sensitive” of everything in the world, particularly in regards to sexism, racism, etc. It’s frustrating because I care so much about doing the right thing and wanting to help but it’s like society only wants help to a point. It’s like I’m constantly being warned not to cross the line.

  3. Loving deeply and with great passion is the only way to live and that includes living as an activist. The problem with activists running on guilt is that while it is never ending, it is toxic. Love never runs out either – we don’t have a finite supply. And rather than making us feel bad about ourselves – hurting us, love builds us up, energizes us. That is not to say it has some magical power to make everything better, make us successful or prevent us from burning out, it assuredly does not. But love will make us better, more functional in whatever we endeavor to accomplish.

  4. I love this article, and it sometimes I struggle a lot to come to terms with. And not just in terms of activism, but in terms of hobbies and interests in general. You can’t pursue it all, you can’t learn about it all, you can’t care about it all, and that is really really hard to accept.

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