Welcome to Braving Politics Podcast! I’m Emily Bergeson, candidate with the United Utah Party. In this episode we’re going to talk about finding strategies for getting involved in politics when we’re already overwhelmed with life.
I don’t need to paint a picture of a hectic life. That’s all of us. I’m sure you’re stepping over toys and cleaning up messes just like I am. We have responsibilities at home, responsibilities at work. We have difficult relationships and personal problems. And then we have this massive nation-wide — world-wide — mountain of issues. So many voices to sift through. The stakes are high and there are so many emotions. We’re already maxed out.
Last night I couldn’t sleep. I had so many thoughts going through my mind. Trying to keep up with everything has been difficult. I’m a problem solver. I like making things right. I like fixing things. I like finding ways to blend ideas to make people happy. But trying to solve so many problems, trying to make everyone happy is impossible. I have definitely had to learn how to simplify my life. By focusing on the things that I have control over, I have been so much happier. I have had more successes to celebrate and fewer days of anger and frustration.
That’s a big reason why for so many years I ignored politics and all of these big issues. Simplify my life and focus on what I can control? Then I definitely don’t need to worry about politics. I can’t possibly influence anything. There are too many people fighting. People seem to be happy in their misery. Too much damage, too many colossal-sized problems. And quite frankly, I just didn’t see myself as someone who understood enough about politics to really have much to say. I mean, what could I add to an already crowded space? Whatever I had to offer, whatever I had to say has likely already been said. And let’s be real here. I’m more likely to make a fool out of myself than say something smart.
But last night I started blending some ideas and applying them to politics. I mean, I’ve spent years trying to nail down various parts of my life. How is politics any different? Don’t these principles and words of wisdom apply in more than one situation? So here are some things that have been on my mind and how these basic principles that I’ve been trying to follow in my everyday life can apply to politics as well.
We can start with the principles I’ve already shared. Simplify the problems and focus on the things I can control.
When faced with huge problems in life, simplifying the tasks can help us not feel overwhelmed. Got a huge mess to deal with? Okay, focus on one area, one task, and go from there. In politics, it’s much the same. We have these enormous problems and we have people making a variety of suggestions for how to solve problems, how to get involved, how to make the world a better place. Step back. Simplify the problem and focus on something that works for you. Once you’ve simplified the tasks, start with the activities you are motivated to do. Starting with these activities first helps you build momentum, which can help propel you into the tasks that are less exciting. Or, who knows? Maybe with the momentum from the activities you love, the other activities won’t seem so bad anymore.
What would all of that look like? Let’s say the hot topic in politics is… um, I don’t know… racism. Let’s say you’re not sure where to start, so the first thing you think about is education.There are tons of elements that go along with education, so you can break that down into smaller pieces. There are historical elements, current problems, perceptions, etc. There is also educating ourselves on the various aspects of racism. Racism in the justice system, in the education system, housing, poverty, pay rates. There’s systematic racism elements that people are talking about. Institutional racism. There are individual interactions and cross cultural issues. Overwhelmed? Yeah, me too.
Okay, so let’s simplify things, starting first by following the activities that motivate you and help you build momentum. Let’s say you want to start with something basic and straightforward. You can start with picking one historical topic, one historical event that you find interesting and go from there. Or maybe you feel like you understand the history fairly well, but you’d like to educate yourself on what’s going on within your state. Pick one thing, one element you’re interested in and start there. If that’s all too overwhelming, don’t reinvent the wheel. Seek out organizations in your area or nationally who have already done the heavy lifting. Pick just one organization and find out something interesting about what they do, how they are involved. But, keep it simple.
Now let’s say you’ve simplified the problem and you picked up on one thing that really bothers you. What do you do? What can you do?
Think about things you can control. Think about the parts that contribute to the problem. Think about a simple step, within your control, that you can do that might help. Maybe you could start by mentioning it to your friends. Awareness of a problem can help pave the way to finding a solution. Maybe you could start by joining a local group of people who care about the same issue. Maybe you’re feeling more informed and you’re ready to talk to your local leaders like the city council, the mayor, and other elected officials.
Does all of this still feel way out of your league? Way outside of your comfort zone? No problem. You’re not alone. I guarantee you there are people out there who feel the same way.
But it can all start with a simple step, a simple task. You don’t have to do all of these things all at once. You don’t have to do all of these things alone. Work with others. Figure out what issues matter the most to you and start there.
We all feel overwhelmed at times. When things are especially overwhelming, remember it’s not your responsibility to fix everything. It’s not your responsibility to save everyone. You don’t have to take on all of the problems of the world. Take a break and recharge when you feel like it’s getting to be too much. But don’t let all of these feelings stop you from getting involved. For a long time, it stopped me. I stayed out of it, leaving it to other people to run everything. Now that I’m looking around and seeing what’s going on, I’m not all that thrilled. I know things can be better. I know I’m not the only one that feels this way. And while I don’t have to feel responsible for everything, I know I can at least do my part. I can support others, I can take steps and do things that feel right to me, much like you can do things and take steps that feel right to you. If we start where we are, focus on the things that are important to us personally, we’ll feel happier, celebrate more successes, and have fewer days of anger and frustration.