I read The Handmaid’s Tale in college, so I knew what to expect when I turned the TV on to the new hit series. But as I snuggled into my couch to watch the dystopian future story, I felt an eerie familiarity wash over me. This world in which women were systematically stripped of their rights didn’t seem all that different from our own.
One particular episode contained every form of violence against women imaginable, and though the story was told respectfully, I couldn’t help wanting to change the channel and watch something lighter instead. As I reached for the remote, it dawned on me: I was about to make a choice that many women around the world don’t have. While I can choose to tune in or tune out of many of the world’s atrocities, the pain shown on my screen is simply the reality for so many of our sisters across the globe.
“What’s my duty here?” I wondered aloud. “As a fellow woman and a force for good, is it not my duty to witness this injustice, even if it’s fictional?” As I thought about what I’d just seen, I was overcome with the same feeling of despair I feel every time I read the news and get informed on current events.
Somehow, it seems the deeper I plunge myself into the pain of the world, the more I feel drained of power to make a positive change in it.
How can we strike a balance between being present to the realities of the world and maintaining healthy boundaries? And when we do feel despair watching the news, how can we alchemize that pain into purposeful action?
Ritualize a practice of engaging and releasing.
While understanding what’s happening in the world is important, endlessly scrolling through Facebook and pummeling yourself with sad stories isn’t helping anyone. When I find myself overwhelmed, I choose to do a purposeful social media detox and recharge my emotional batteries. You can remain a conscious citizen of the world and put boundaries around what you engage in. For me, this looks like taking a few minutes each morning to scan the news and then meditating to release what I need to in order to move forward with purpose.
Spend according to your values.
How you spend your time and money is a direct expression of what matters most to you - and if making the world a better place matters to you, then aligning your spending is the perfect way to start. Buy fair trade. Research the companies you love. Make it a point to support woman-owned, for-purpose businesses. Volunteer. Write letters to your congressperson. Not only do these acts make me feel more empowered to create change, they are small things I can do on a daily basis to help create the type of world I want to live in.
Separate mission from distraction.
Anger and pain can be downright magical sources of fuel if you use them well, but forwarding the latest outrage articles doesn’t help you carry out your purpose of making the world better. One of the most powerful impacts you can make is declaring your specific mission, and releasing the distractions that threaten it. For example, if arguing over politics with your mom drains you, ask yourself whether this pattern is helping you accomplish what you want. If it’s not, let it go, and turn your attention toward what’s working.
Choose to see a larger purpose.
In coaching, we have a fun phenomenon called “the slingshot effect.” Basically, it’s the idea that sometimes, before things get better, they get worse. The first time a client pulls back on the metaphorical slingshot, it’s scary - you wonder if they’ll get stuck there. But, inevitably, leaning back into darkness, pain, or struggle always induces even more motivation to propel themselves forward - and fast. Rather than constantly mourning the current state of the world, choose to see humanity in the midst of a slingshot moment. We’re diving into tense, difficult territory and bringing awareness to it, precisely so that we can move forward and heal with grace.
As powerful creators and socially conscious women, the choice and responsibility to be engaged in the world does not have to mean losing our sanity. In fact, we are of more use when we are whole, not hurting. Part of that wholeness is owning that we can’t fix everything. Allowing ourselves the space to take a breath away from what’s painful isn’t disloyal - it gives us the necessary, focused energy to create the purposeful change for good we crave to see in the world.
Photos by: Eun Creative