A few weeks ago, I overheard a stigmatizing conversation about mental illness, and I didn’t say anything.
They weren’t talking to me; I was just nearby. And the individuals talking were significantly older than me. It wasn’t the right place and time. Still, I feel quite bad that I let it go.
I highly doubt this is a unique experience to me. This wasn’t my first time experiencing this, and some of my friends validated that they’ve been in the same position too. Sometimes you have to choose your battles. Or you need to rest. Or it’s not a safe space for you to speak up. Or a multitude of other possible reasons.
Not speaking up every time we hear something does not mean we are bad advocates. It means we are imperfect advocates. And who among us isn’t imperfect?
Yet, I still feel bad. Through the entire conversation as they associated bipolar disorder with violence and bad parenting I kept thinking to myself, “Come on! Just say something,” but I didn’t.
When we get so invested in advocacy it can become all too easy to expect too much from ourselves. Now, I’m not saying we should have high expectations and goals we push ourselves towards. I’m just saying we shouldn’t expect perfection or even action every single time.
Sometimes it’s not the time to speak up, and that’s okay. It does not diminish our other work as advocates.