Strength in vulnerability: Why advocates must make self-care a priority in 2019

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To say it's been a challenging year for advocates would be a huge understatement.

The almost daily barrage of outrageous social and political events has been overwhelming and paralyzing for many of us.

But as another insufferable year marked by tyranny, gun violence, and other ills comes to close, it is optimism, not outrage, that inspires this writing.

scrabble letters spelling resilience, power, and healingWhat has sparked such hopefulness? First, the record-setting number of people who voted in this year's midterm elections. Second — and more importantly — is the inspiration that has come from working with advocates and their supporters who exemplify humanity at its best.

At BMSG, we're fortunate enough not only to provide strategic communication trainings to advocates and share our research with them, but also to learn from them. Perhaps the most invaluable lesson we take from advocates is the true power of resilience.

In addition to working with advocates on a wide variety of public health issues, we also attend many convenings with them. Over the past year, a number of these events have featured healing circles that aim to help advocates working on the ground cope with the tremendous emotional and physical toll the work they're so dedicated to takes on them.

For proof, one need look no further than the untimely death of Ferguson activist Bassem Masri, who was found unconscious and unresponsive on a bus in suburban St. Louis last month.

He was 31.

Masri was among the group of protesters that organized marches following the August 2014 police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. He joins a growing list of activists who have recently passed away — a tragic reminder of the toll racism and other societal troubles take on our health. Many of these issues have only gotten worse and, in some cases, are fueled by the current administration.

At these healing circles, leaders from indigenous communities and others have summoned the resilience and wisdom of our ancestors and Mother Nature herself to help guide and protect us as we march forward.

The fellowship and emphasis on mutuality as well as self-care at these gatherings have had a transformative effect: I've learned that resilience isn't about toughing it out. It's about being vulnerable enough to seek out the help we need to feel nourished and keep us going. As we head into a new year, that's a lesson we all could benefit from.


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