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June 18, 2020

My Silence Doesn’t Mean that I Don’t Care.

Instagram is booming with quotes these days. As I was scrolling through my Instagram feed a specific quote caught my eye.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” ~ Desmond Tutu

Something happened inside me as I read that statement. I was feeling triggered.

Not because I am a racist.

Not because I don’t agree that what is happening in the world is wrong.

Not because I don’t agree that enough is enough.

The truth? I was feeling guilty. Guilty for not being an active part of the resistance, for not being in the front line with strong-worded inspirational texts on signs or at least on social media.

In times where our support is needed, it can be difficult to feel like we’re doing enough. Especially if what we’re called to do doesn’t line up with who we are as a person.

I am an introvert and an empath. Being loud is just not me.

But I want to tell you that my silence doesn’t mean that I am neutral or that I don’t care.

As an introvert and empath, silence is where I can begin to make a change.

It seems these days that everywhere you look, people are fighting—fighting each other, or fighting for something. It’s overwhelming. Often to the point that I have to take a giant step back to recharge. After all, we need energy, fuel—something—to power any meaningful movement.

For empaths, arguments make us more than uncomfortable. Whether it’s fighting with someone, or observing a fight, we come to a point of anxiety where, for our well-being, we need to remove ourselves from the situation.

Empaths feel all of the sadness or anger of the world in addition to our own emotions. Between holding the pain of the world, trying to hold space for our families when needed, and dealing with everyday life, the sadness and anger can become too much. Feeling our feelings is good, but when it leaves no space for even a few happy moments in our day, it becomes an issue.

And feeling as much as empaths do, self-care must go beyond the typically prescribed shower or reading. It means letting ourselves shut down at least once a day. It means putting on a TV show that we’ve watched 10 times, just so we don’t have to think. It means sitting quietly without saying a word to anyone—being fully alone.

I know that I am white and that I live in a part of the world that means that I will never understand. That’s real privilege.

I want to tell you that my silence isn’t meant as an insult, but that silence can be powerful if you use it right.

Support doesn’t always look the same. Sometimes it means standing together from afar, giving space for someone else to speak and be heard. Sometimes it looks like sitting in our silence as we learn and unlearn, and using that silence to begin our own inner work.

Empath or not, silence gives us an opportunity to listen. And we need to listen inward because every change starts with us. Wouldn’t we all like a peaceful world where everyone is equal? I know I’d like to see a world where my Latino/Danish children can grow up and be safe.

Introverts and empaths have power even though we may be quieter than most. We know how to listen hard, and even though some of us may rarely speak our opinions out loud, we know how to instead express ourselves through art, writing, painting, or some other universal outlet.

Here are 10 small things to do if you’re a quiet person like me:

1. Work on not judging.

Whether it’s judging people for being loud, for being a different color, or for not sharing your beliefs, do not judge.

We are all different, and thank god for that! How weird and boring would it be if we were all the same?

Instead of judging, take advantage of the situation and learn something from the other person. You might end up changing your opinion completely. Or at least gain awareness of how others in the world think. And that’s never a bad thing.

2. Do not assume the worst.

This goes hand-in-hand with not judging, but it needed to be said.

Do you know the situations where you see a person, and you immediately have his or her whole life story made up in your head? Why is that? Notice why you tend to give people you don’t even know a fake reputation. Notice the assumptions you’re making and question why you’ve selected those to paste onto a person.

Only by being conscious of our prejudices, can we change them.

3. Teach your kids.

No one is born racist. It is simply not possible. As parents (or in my case, as a parent-to-be), it is our responsibility to teach our children about kindness, respect, and equality, not only when it comes to people but to animals and earth itself.

Teaching our children about race doesn’t mean we have everything figured out already. Know that it is okay to not have all the answers. Instead, seize the lessons as they appear.

Many of us are just now uncovering years of hidden stuff that we were all raised with, without even knowing. Many of us are slowly (some slower than others) unlearning everything that we have learned.

If your sensitivity keeps you from exploring the knowledge that is being offered right now, then try to be conscious of racial bias in the books or movies that you watch with your children, or maybe even read history books together about historic events such as Apartheid in South Africa, or the civil rights movement in the United States to show how people throughout history have been standing together for justice. You can also explore food from different cultures and talk about these as you eat.

The main message is, don’t be scared to talk to your children about what’s going on in the world—or even what you’re learning and uncovering, yourself. Encourage your kids to be curious and to ask questions, and most importantly, take time to sit down and answer those questions. Be present.

Be the example that your child can follow.

4. Make sure the movies or TV shows you’re watching, and the music you’re listening to are diverse.

This may or may not be a problem for you. Perhaps you’ve been doing this for years, or all your life. Maybe you are just now starting to notice your own patterns. The key word here is notice.

If it’s the case that you only watch movies with white actors or only listen to music made by white singers, then notice why. Is there a hidden agenda behind your actions? Is it because of how you were raised? Or is it simply a “coincidence” because you happen to like those movies or that music? Notice how it is that you’re comfortable with what you know.

Notice why and, if needed, do the work in order to change it.

5. Dive into your childhood.

As I said earlier, no one is born racist. So, how were you raised? Has it affected you, or maybe affected how you talk or interact with people of another ethnic background than you?

Just because you were raised to be in a certain way, doesn’t mean that you can’t change. We should all be working on changing, and growing throughout our entire life and to always better ourselves.

If you are noticing that you always react in a certain way when coming into contact with black, Latinx, or Asian people, try diving into your childhood. Find out where it is coming from and then do the work to better yourself.

6. Listen to podcasts. Educate yourself.

Being an empath and an introvert can be tiring. Perhaps everything around you seems to drain you. Maybe just the thought of reading information in a book or online can make your eyes heavy. Podcasts, then, might be a good tool for you to use. Because we’re able to listen to them wherever and whenever, and generally they’re recorded in conversational tones, they’re a lighter learning source.

Take advantage of this age where you can educate yourself while doing the dishes, laundry, tidying up, or any other boring assignment at home.

Educating ourselves is bettering ourselves.

7. Surround yourself with the right people.

I don’t like to fight, and I don’t like confrontations. I am sure that I am not the only one.

The trick is to surround yourself with the right people to keep discomfort to a minimum.

If you have people in your life who always want to start a fight, or confront you about your opinions or values, then maybe it’s time for a break. We introverts are not good at expressing ourselves out loud, so instead, find someone who appreciates you for you. Someone who maybe even shares your values and opinions and who you feel completely comfortable around.

And by no means am I saying to completely shut out your family (if it’s your family members who play the role of the antagonists in your life). Maybe just take a small break—a little space.

Save your energy for the right people, and never feel guilty for saying no.

8. Find out what you can do, and what you want to do.

Everyone will have their opinions about how you can make a difference in the #blacklivesmatter movement, or any other event going on in the world. But what is the use if their way isn’t who you are? In order to make a steady difference, you need motivation and authentic engagement. So don’t ask people what you should do; ask yourself how you want to make a difference.

What do you feel comfortable doing? A bit out of the comfort zone is good; too much and you lose your motivation.

So if protesting or starting debates aren’t something that you’re comfortable doing, then don’t do it. Find your own way and make sure that whatever you do, you do it out of love.

9. Be creative.

With everything that is going on in the world, and with social media booming with photos, videos, and words, our heads can get quite full.

Being creative gives us a way and an outlet for all that chitter-chatter and all the worries stuck in our heads.

Whatever it is that you feel called to, do it. Whether it’s writing, painting, or building. Maybe even consider sharing your creation with the world. There is something beautiful about people opening up and sharing their feelings with each other. If sharing with too many is too much, then limit it to a few good friends or a group that you feel comfortable in.

If you don’t feel comfortable with writing on social media or any other public place, then blog your heart out instead.

10. Remember self-care.

Especially if you are an introvert and an empath. With all the heaviness found on social media, or anywhere really, it can be exhausting. You need to rest so you have the energy and the compassion to be of service and make that change that the world so desperately needs. If you are too tired you simply won’t have the energy to care.

Make sure that you get your alone time to wind down. Whatever relaxes you, go ahead and do that. Don’t worry about it seeming lazy or unproductive. The world needs you, but you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Most important, don’t pretend that everything is okay. You do not need to hide behind your silence, or run from reality.

But know that you don’t always have to be the loudest in the crowd.

~

Watch an anti-racism hour with Jane Elliott talking with Waylon Lewis of Elephant, here.

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