My thumb hovers over the post button while my mind overthinks all the possible interpretations to my post. Instead I tap cancel and place the phone down. Being vulnerable has always been a challenge for me, hence the fact that I have to put all my feelings and thoughts into my phone’s notes app, never to see the light of day, instead of talking about them openly. My own injustice in my past is buried deep in this folder of thoughts as the subject not only feels very much still a taboo in society but also means people will get to know more than the put-together Maddie I try to present myself as.
Then came COVID. With hours spent by myself, and on social media, I found out more about myself, like the fact that I am actually a lot more introverted than I’d like to admit. Also finding some hidden confidence as I, the most anxious young driver imaginable managed to drive miles on the motorway, albeit with a passenger telling me exactly where to go, but you have to celebrate the small successes! However, perhaps the most challenging thing I learnt about myself was how much I actually care what people think of me and just generally overthink. This was prevalent in the midst of the outrage against the murder of George Floyd and increase in posts of Black Lives Matter on social media. I just couldn’t bring myself to post on social media for fears of it being performative, or ignorant or just plain wrong.
I’ll be the first person to admit I only really show my ‘best life’ on social media for fear of other people’s judgment. I spend hours poring over the best photo or post to share with the perfect caption only to then delete it. I want to post and argue about all the injustices that I’m so passionate about, but that means being vulnerable. But there are injustices far worse than the prospect of wounding my own pride. Injustices that need to be spoken about. While words have power, arguably silence is far worse. With words, even those not eloquent or using the perfect language, people can be educated or at least a discussion encouraged. Silence only gives power to their sense of taboo. Language is something that connects people, it is the glue that holds society and relationships together. So surely it makes sense that we use it to break systems of injustice and its devastating effects on human relationships. Arguably using a platform to share the words of those whose voices had previously gone unheard is the best method for this.
There have been many moments of insane courage and confidence during the COVID pandemic including NHS workers, bus drivers and supermarket workers risking their lives on the front lines as well as the 6-year-old superhero who stepped in front of his little sister during a dog attack. While these massive feats of bravery may not always be possible, there are hundreds of opportunities daily to be brave and do the right thing. All we have to do is make ourselves vulnerable and take one.
Vulnerability has often been perceived as a negative word; the Oxford Dictionary defines it as,
“The quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.”
However, to be truly brave one must take the chance to be vulnerable, open and sometimes step away from the herd. Posting about injustice is easier when all your friends are doing it, but real vulnerability is posting what you think needs to be heard without knowing what its response will be.
I think that’s what my challenge for myself post-COVID will be; to be more open and vulnerable and to take more chances with confidence. Injustice will never change if we don’t speak about it and I have been silent for far too long. We have been silent for far too long.
My vision for a world post-COVID, is one where issues of injustice aren’t taboos or trends but rather always spoken of, and entire systems of injustice challenged.
Mass movements did not happen magically overnight but took the efforts of often one individual to take a look at something and say “No, this isn’t right”. Often these are ordinary people, of any age, gender, race or sexuality. Greta Thunberg was a schoolgirl who simply skipped school in favour of protesting climate change and in 2013 Black Lives Matter was born of a singular hashtag and Facebook post. Anyone can make a difference.
Maybe I’ll take my own advice and click the post button next time.