Amplify: Outside and Inside
"Empowerment isn’t always about speaking or shouting out loud in favour or someone or something, it can also be about giving the time to listen and pay attention." - Raina Ladha
When I started thinking about this month’s theme, I mainly thought about how to amplify voices of others, but later my thoughts shifted to personal goals as well. Here’s a few thoughts I’ve had along the way:
1) Just listen.
When someone confides in you, validate their emotions and respect what they feel. Don’t make trauma a competition. If someone tells you that they’ve been struggling with x, y and z, don’t try to one up them by citing examples implying you or others have it worse. It’s okay to just listen. Share experiences in a supporting tone, not for the sake of saying “oh yeah, me too” or “same”.
You’re probably thinking, “Okay cool, I do that already, but how does listening alone help amplify others?” Listening empathetically gives the individual confidence to continue sharing their thoughts with you or others. Instead, when you talk down someone’s experience (because you or someone you know has been through worse) not only are you refusing to acknowledge the individual’s experience, but also reducing their likelihood of sharing their experience with yourself or others. Empowerment isn’t always about speaking or shouting out loud in favour or someone or something, it can also be about giving the time to listen and pay attention.
2) Recognize your privilege and use it!
Recognize your privilege and use it to lift the voices of others. If you are cisgender or heterosexual, you haven’t had to experience the same stigma or discrimination that LGBTQ persons experience. If you are a white woman, then you have privilege by the means of your skin colour that a woman of colour does not. If you are able-bodied or able passing, then you have privilege that someone with a visible disability does not. When you refuse to recognize your privilege instead of using it to uplift others, you take part in the systemic oppression of others. That is not to say that you have to become to social justice what Greta Thunberg is to environmental activism (although you can if you’d like!), but wouldn’t it be nice to be remembered by at least one person in a favourable light for being the one that stood up for them, for helping another’s voice stand out, for igniting change even if it is limited to a shift in your own view of the world? Not everyone has a seat at the table to influence and make change, but each of us can make the choice to provide the opportunity for someone else to be heard. Being against sexism, racism, ageism, ableism (and many others) is not a once-in-a-lifetime decision, but it’s a choice we must make multiple times every day.
3) Engage in healthy competition.
Maybe this was my program or my school, or perhaps a combination of the two. Most people seemed competitive to the detriment of others. Competition is great when it motivates you to do better, but it becomes toxic when you start stepping on others to be better. Share your notes with the fellow struggling in the course you’re taking, edit the last-minute essay for a friend, share an interesting job opportunity with a recent grad. I think we often forget that lighting someone else’s candle does not dim your own fire.
Amplifying yourself does not necessitate working yourself to the point of burnout. We don’t get gold medals for showing the world that we work harder or longer than others. Normalize balance and time for rest. Don’t feel guilty for taking time off or resting – it’s helping your productivity in the long run and preventing burnout. Taking time off to reflect on progress and revise goals is an essential aspect of growth.
2) Compare your present self to your past.
Comparing yourself to others neither sparks joy nor is it a true reflection of your journey. Instead, compare your present self to your past. Be mindful of the improvements and goals you’d still like to achieve and applaud yourself for the goals you have met. Appreciate how far you’ve come. Be your own cheerleader!
3) Work towards improving your character.
We do not know everything about everything and we are not perfect. It is up to us to keep improving ourselves. Question yourself and your beliefs. When you hear something that goes against what you’ve always thought to be true, do yourself a favour and learn about that topic. That’s not to say that we have to believe everything that someone else tells us but do have the courage to question your own ideals from time to time.
Amplifying yourself is interlinked with amplifying others. If you are working towards being your best self, you inadvertently improve your surroundings as well. Whereas, if you are driven by the desire to amplify others, you also end up becoming a better version of yourself.