5 Ways to Fight Hate (Right Where You Are!)

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In recent decades, we've seen some wonderful, positive progress in our world in terms of tolerance and inclusion, but we've yet to rid ourselves of the terrible ailment of hate. It is still pervasive in society, especially here in America, and it is causing pain and heartache every single day. Hate is not an inherent human trait. It's not something we're born with. It's something we learn. As Nelson Mandela famously said,

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

If you're reading this, you're probably the kind of person who's pro-love, anti-hate, but rejecting hate in your mind (or even online) is not the same as actually fighting it. This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. When I see some of these horrible situations on the news, my first thought is, This is terrible. This needs to stop! And then, from the safe and privileged position in which I was lucky enough to be born, I feel the inevitable resignation and shame that comes with my next thoughts: But what can someone like me do? Can someone like me even make a difference? 

Online, I see thousands of people condemning acts of hate, but few offering advice or guidance on how to make it stop. Lots of anger and shock (really? how is anyone surprised by anything at this point?) and sympathy swell in my social media feeds, but much of what I read is, in fact, hate-filled, rhetoric that simply turns the hate back on the hateful. And, as much as I understand instinct of outrage, I can't help but think of the wise words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: 

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

It's easy to hate those who are hateful, who are committing heinous acts, but, in doing so, it's only hate that wins. I want to do better than simply condemning acts of hate. I want to help change things. But it's difficult to even know where to begin, to know what's effective for change. I sometimes see those in the most vulnerable communities, those most impacted by acts of hate, saying not to ask them for advice on what to do. I completely get where they're coming from — it's not the job of the oppressed to tell everyone else how to help them — but this leaves those of us who (I'll be perfectly frank here) could ignore a great deal of this and get along just fine at a loss for what to do. 

Here's the honest truth: I want to help in a real way, but I don't know how. I want to ask, but I'm fearful of being shamed or blamed or ridiculed because I've seen it happen to others. I could certainly handle the minor discomfort of being dismissed, but then I'd be right back where I started: uncertain of what to do. So, like any good millennial, I turned to the internet for answers. Unsurprisingly, I found a lot of what you'd expect: attend a rally, start an anti-hate group, volunteer at a local organization, etc. All of these are great ideas, but what if those options aren't available to you. What if you're too anxious to attend a rally? What if you're physically unable to march? What if you have zero organizations nearby at which you could volunteer? Does that mean you can't help? 

Extroverted activities are wonderful and can lead to positive change, but you don't have to be marching in DC or volunteering at the ACLU to make a difference. There are a lot of things you can do right where you are, wherever you are. Here are some of the best ways I've found to fight hate, regardless of where you are or what your capabilities are: 

 

SPEAK UP — LOUDLY + OFTEN

Even if you're just one voice in a sea of many, that voice matters. The more people who condemn acts of hatred (even if the only thing you do is retweet someone else's words or share something on Facebook), the better. You might think that you don't have a big audience or you're not in a position to comment on a specific incident or it's not really your business to get involved, but hate — whether its occurring in your home town or across the world — is wrong, and if you're a human living on the same planet as all of these other humans, you have a right (and a duty) to speak out against it. (Reminder: you can speak out against hate without being hateful, which is something a lot of people don't seem to be very good at!) Speak out on social media. Talk to people you know (especially people you disagree with!). If you're not sure where to start, check out How to Share Your Beliefs (Even with People Who Don't Agree)

 

PRACTICE TOLERANCE DAILY

Tolerance isn't just about accepting people of a different race or religious background. Tolerance can begin in small doses, in tiny little shifts in your mind. Look around you at all of the various people in your life, and do what you can to be more tolerant of them. No, this won't lead to major sociological changes, but if everyone made an effort to be more tolerant of other people, of the differences and all the little things that can drive you crazy, that tolerance will spread to bigger things. Remember: you weren't born disliking certain traits or habits, but you've grown to dislike them and you most likely reinforce those beliefs by thinking, Ugh, I hate it when [insert name] does [insert annoying activity]. This isn't to say you have to love everything everyone does, but practice being tolerant of it. (Side note: practicing tolerance does not mean tolerating hateful speech or actions.)

 

RECALL THE BIG PICTURE

It's so tempting to stay in your bubble (particularly if you're born into a nice, safe one), but one of the reasons hate blooms is when we encounter others who don't hold the same beliefs we do. If you're really passionate about something (like, say, equality) and someone else challenges that beliefs (like, say, Nazi-flag-waving white supremacists), it's challenging not to feel enraged or even hateful. But, if we really want to get out of a hate-fueled cycle, we have to step out of ourselves and look for the big picture. We're all human. We're all here. Right now, there are so many reasons to feel disconnected, to feel as if there are sides to be chosen, but, hard as it is to recall sometimes: we're much more alike than we are different. We're all struggling to make the most of whatever we have, to do what we believe is right. (Another reminder: anger doesn't have to equal hate.)

 

STOP HATING YOURSELF

Honestly, it might seem overly simplistic, but I believe if everyone in the world loved him or herself, the world would be a much more peaceful place. I keep reading about the notion that "peace starts with you," and, while that's great in theory, it's really difficult to create outer peace via inner peace if you don't love who you are. All hate comes from fear, and most of what we fear has to do with some story we've told ourselves about certain people or situations. It's human nature to be fearful and to avoid things that make us afraid, but one of the great things about being a human is self-awareness. We can become aware of what we're doing and change it. Cultivate self-love is no easy task, but it's essential for finding both inner and outer peace. Dig deep into the things you dislike about yourself, the things you're afraid of, and challenge them. Fear, as you might have heard before, is a liar. Don't let it guide how you see yourself — or the world around you. 

 

GET POLITICAL

My political M.O. used to be: "politics is a patriarchal, dishonest system and I want zero part in that!" Ah, that old ignorance-is-bliss concept seems so foolish to me now. Political engagement, regardless of where you stand on various issues or people in power, is important. It's one of the greatest ways to affect change. You might be one person, but you can make a difference with your political actions. Reach out to your representatives, to those on the local and state and federal levels, who have access to making major changes. Tell them what matters to you. Tell them how you feel about hate and ask that they stand for the things that will bring more unity, connectedness, and love into our communities. And, of course, when it's time: vote, vote, vote for those people who shut down hate at every chance they get. 

 

Of course, this is just a small list of things you can do to make a difference. If you have children, you can teach them to value equality and inclusiveness. If you work in an organization with political influence, you can speak to those at the top and urge them to reject hateful acts or policies. If you have the time and ability, you can volunteer or even take a job at an anti-hate organization. If you're loaded with extra cash, you can show your support financially. If you're a march-goer, you can attend rallies and marches in your town. There are countless ways you can make the world a less hateful place, but, as cliche as it is to say, it does start with you. It starts with how you think, how you speak, how you act. You might feel, like I often do, that you're helpless, but you're not. Every single one of us has more power than we realize. And it's completely up to you how you use that power. Choose love and keep choosing it. Again and again and again. 

 

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Struggling with Self-Love? : 10 Must-Read Reminders


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To live your most positive and present life, it's essential that you love who you are. But loving who you are can be quite a challenge at times. Truly conquering self-love is incredibly complex. It’s not just about positive affirmations or breaking up with that guy who treats you like garbage (though those are great starts!). It’s about investigating and assessing every aspect of your life — and continuing to do it all the time, for the rest of your life.

When it comes to self-love, we're all works in progress, so I've rounded up some of my favorite reminders about self-love to keep in mind. If you're struggling to embrace who you are, check these out for some inspiration (or bookmark them for a time you might need them!). 

 

YOUR FEELINGS, NO MATTER WHAT THE REASON, IS VALID. 

You might have it pretty good (and if you're alive and reading this, you probably have it better than a lot of people), but just because you're not suffering from the worst thing in the world doesn't mean that your pain isn't valid. Loving yourself means allowing yourself to experience pain without judging yourself. Sure, other people might have it worse, but self-love means giving yourself permission to feel what you feel. (This doesn't mean you should necessarily act on these feelings, but allowing yourself to feel them is an act of self-love). 

 

YOU WILL MAKE BAD CHOICES, AND THAT'S OKAY. 

We all make good choices and bad choices — that's just part of life. Refusing to accept the bad choices you've made (either through denial or by beating yourself for having made them) isn't a great way to show yourself love. Acceptance of yourself and others is one of the most vital aspects of self-love, and that acceptance includes embrace both the good and the bad choices you've made. The point of making a bad decision isn't to serve as a painful reminder you return to again and again; it's an opportunity to learn and make more positive choices in the future. 

 

YOU CAN CHOOSE TO FOCUS ON BEST-CASE SCENARIOS. 

When was the last time you imagined the best thing that could happen? Most of us imagine worst-case scenarios, which is totally human nature. We imagine these things so we can prepare for (and hopefully avoid!) them. But what would it be like if you chose to focus on best-case scenarios? Would you really be less prepared or is that just something you tell yourself? At the very least, you can choose to focus on the best-case scenario in addition to the worst-case possibilities. Your attitude, whether it's positive or negative, impacts the way you think and act, and embracing optimism is a self-loving act.

 

YOU'LL NEVER 100% KNOW WHAT OTHERS THINK.

One thing that all-too-often gets in the way of self-love is making assumptions about what other people are thinking. Even if you know someone else extremely well, you can never know with 100% certainty what s/he is thinking, and making assumptions about what others' intentions are can actually sabotage your own self-love. Assumptions get in the way of relationships with others and those relationships impact the one you have with yourself. Whenever you find yourself assuming what others are thinking, remind yourself that you only know for sure what's in your own head. Creating clear communication with others will make it easier for you to love yourself.  

 

YOUR ANGER IS A SIGN OF FEAR OR PAIN. 

Everyone gets angry from time to time, and that's perfectly okay (see #1!), but it's so important to keep in mind that your anger stems from a place of fear or pain. Anger is a symptom, not a disease. Knowing this can help you better understand what you're truly feeling. Your knee-jerk reaction if you feel angry is probably to think, "I'm mad!" but a great way to show yourself self-love is to dig a little deeper and find out where that anger stems from. When you do this, you not only gain a better understanding of the current issue you're dealing with, but you also gain a better understanding of yourself. 

 

YOU DON'T HAVE TO ANTICIPATE WHAT WILL HAPPEN. 

Did you know that you can just let things happen? You don't have to analyze everything or worry about what's coming next or anticipate what other people are going to do. In fact, spending too much time prepping for the future (or dwelling on the past...) stands in opposition to self-love. Being present is a challenge, but when you give yourself the freedom to stay in the moment, you're showing yourself a true kindness. It's not easy to shut down a worrying mind, but keep in mind: it's not your job to imagine the future. You deserve to be here, and enjoying, now.  

 

YOU AREN'T OBLIGATED TO LIKE EVERYONE. 

This probably isn't news to you, but you're not going to like everyone (and not everyone is going to like you). Once you embrace that fact, you release yourself from a lot of unnecessary stress and heartache. So many people spend time trying to like or be liked, instead of realizing that not everyone is meant to be linked to one another. This isn't to say, of course, that you shouldn't treat everyone with kindness and respect, but doing so doesn't mean you have to be BFF with every person you meet. Show yourself self-love by reserving your time and energy for those you care about most. 

 

YOU'RE ALLOWED TO SAY "NO" WITHOUT AN EXCUSE. 

"No" isn't a four letter word, contrary to what many people think. Learning that is one of the absolute best acts of self-love. We've all given only so much time here on Earth, and you reserve the right to use that time how you see fit. Every time you say yes to something, you're saying no to something else. And the same goes for the reverse. Every time you say no to something you don't want to do (particularly if it's something that's not good for you!), you're saying yes to yourself. Be mindful of when (and why!) you say yes, and use that self-awareness to make more self-loving choices. 

 

YOU CAN'T RUN FOREVER FROM WHAT HURTS. 

If you've ever tried to run from your pain, you're probably well aware that this is true. You might be able to run, but if you don't deal with your pain, heartbreak, frustration, anger, or whatever other emotion you're experiencing, it'll come back later (and often in an unexpected and unpleasant way). Dealing with what hurts is one of the most difficult aspects of being human, but facing difficulties head-on is an excellent way to treat yourself with the love you deserve. It'll be painful, for sure, but avoiding it will only amplify the pain. 

 

YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF THE STORY YOU TELL YOURSELF. 

You can't control everything that happens to you, but you can control the story you tell yourself about what happens. Everything we experience gets filtered through our minds into a story we tell ourselves. The story is often more important than the actual experience, because it stays with us and impacts future experiences. Our minds are imperfect — memories can be inaccurate, emotions can be heightened, and the facts can be distorted — but we can choose to make the most of whatever information we have, taking lessons from the hard times and embracing the good times. Choosing the story you tell yourself is one of the ways you can show yourself love.  

 

Self-love doesn't always come easy, no matter how much you strive to make it a priority in your life. If you need some additional inspiration or motivation, check out some of the resources below! 

 

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A Reminder : Your Happy Ending's Up to You

 

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Last week Kesha's Learn to Let Go video debuted, and I've had it on repeat for days. The song deals with a topic I used to write about a lot, but haven't touched on lately: learning to let go. We all have things in our pasts that we wish weren't part of our stories. There are things we've done; there are things that've been done to us. When we experience things, especially negative things, it's difficult to let them go. It's human nature to hang on to and remember the bad times — an act of self-preservation to avoid the repetition of such experiences — but when we dwell on these experiences, when they take away from the present moment, hanging on to the past stops serving us and starts hurting us. Like Kesha sings in her song, 

 

Been a prisoner of the past
Had a bitterness when I looked back
Was telling everyone it's not that bad
'Til all my shit hit the fan

 

I, too, have been in the position of being imprisoned by the past. I've told myself stories for years about who I was, who the people around me were, and, as you might know, memory is a funny thing. It's not always as accurate as we'd like it to be, and, accuracy aside, it's not always as useful as it might seem. In fact, often it's our own memories and rumination of the past that hold us prisoner more than than the actual experiences do. We dwell and dwell and, angered by the time and emotional energy we waste, we add even more negative fuel to the fire of our experience. 

All of this makes it difficult to make the most of the present moment. When you're experiencing bitterness and anger, you're becoming a victim in the present for something that happened in the past. I talk a big talk about staying in the present, but lately I've found myself allowing resentment to seep into my heart. As the song goes,  

I know I'm always like
Telling everybody you don't gotta be a victim
Life ain't always fair, but hell is living in resentment
Choose redemption, your happy ending's up to you

 

It's interesting, writing about my personal experiences, trying to help others be more mindful, positive, and self-loving, when these are all things I struggle with myself. I started Positively Present as a way to learn how to help myself and share what I'm learning with others, but it puts me (and anyone else who does what I do) in a unique position. I'm not an expert, a trained psychologist or scholar, but, in sharing my experiences, I'm giving advice. The trouble is, I'm not always taking my own advice, which is why these words hit hard for me: 

 

I think it's time to practice what I preach
Exorcise the demons inside me
Whoa, gotta learn to let it go
The past can't haunt me if I don't let it
Live and learn and never forget it
Whoa, gotta learn to let it go 

 

The past might influence who we are, but it doesn't have to define us indefinitely. And, when caught up in ruminating about the past, it can be hard to remember that the future's past is happening right now. The choices we're making now — including the choices about how we think about and react to the past — are soon going to be the past that's influencing us. Which is why it's so essential to pay attention to what's going on in and around you. While I think Kesha might be referring to a certain someone in this part of the song, 


Had a boogieman under my bed
Putting crazy thoughts inside my head
Always whispering, "It's all your fault"
He was telling me "No, you're not that strong"

 

we all have a boogieman not under our beds, but in our heads. We all have a voice that whispers (or shouts...) negative things to us. It's those ideas — that we're completely to blame for the past or that we're not strong enough to overcome it — that often hold us back from moving forward more than the actual experience itself. We don't have to continue living as victims of the past. We might not be able to control what parts of our stories have been written already, but we have the power to create a happy ending. Of course, doing so is rarely easy. It starts, I believe, with actively deciding to move forward, to say to ourselves: 

 

I'm done reliving my bad decisions
I see now maybe there's a reason
Why, I been through hell and back
Honestly, it's what made me who I am
Holding on to wasted time
Gotta learn to let go in life

When you've spent a lot of time dwelling on what's happened, it can be difficult to choose to stop reliving it. Particularly if it's something that's had a major impact on your life, it's challenging to even choose to let it go because it's often become a part of who you think you are. But who you are is completely up to you right now. Yes, the past has impacted and influenced you, but it isn't you. As Kesha wrote here, "Your past only has as much effect on your future as you want it to." It's tempting to brush these words off, to consider them an overly simplistic take on letting go, but there's a deep truth in them. 

So much of letting go of the past comes down to actually choosing to do it, which, by itself, is a very simple act. The hard part is getting to the point where you're ready to make that choice. Letting the past go leads to liberation, to the release of a part how you've come to identify yourself. Even if you know it would be best for your mental and emotional health to move forward, actively making choices that help you do that is hard, especially true if the past plays a large role in your self-identity. 

Your happy ending's up to you, and you have to decide if you want it. You know, deep down, what you'd be better off without. You know what you should let go of. You know. Knowledge is power, but action is what matters. It's not easy; there's no doubt about that. But in every moment, every thought, you have the chance to choose redemption. You cannot change the past, but you learn to let go, giving yourself a chance for live the life you deserve now. Because, really, it's never too late to have a happy ending. 

 

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