Image Credits: Hayden Lee

A little over a year ago today, I was just like you. Sure, I always believed in conservative principles.  I followed Republican politics for as long as I could remember, but I wasn’t fully involved in political activism. I pretty much watched Fox News and shared my views with anyone who would listen, mostly my mom. (Thanks, mom, for sticking it out and not complaining too much!) Just before Election Day of 2015, my second Election Day as a legal voter, I started to realize that low-engagement activism involvement wasn’t enough for me.

Slowly but surely, I began following various Republican and conservative accounts from my personal Twitter account.  I found myself gaining more confidence in sharing my opinions during presidential debates as well as daily news cycles. Reading political blogs became one of my favorite pasttimes and even considered what it would be like to write for one of the awesome websites I read, like Future Female Leaders. So I applied to write for them. Aaaaaand… I didn’t get accepted. That was okay. I could have let that end my burgeoning political activism, but I didn’t. Instead, I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and figured out what my next step would be.  Now my political appetite was stronger than ever before. I decided to make a politically-focused Twitter.

Honestly, making my political Twitter (@GOPBlondeshell, shameless plug) was one of the most positive changes in my life. Social media often gets a bad reputation, but when used in the right way, it can truly be an awesome influence. My Twitter account allowed me to connect with other like-minded conservatives, many of them millennials, and finally engage with them about our shared views. Within two days, I had over one hundred followers.  I was so excited that there were actually people out there who wanted to listen to what I had to say.

Through Twitter, I was able to discover an awesome conservative organization on campus, Turning Point USA, and connect with the student at my school who was working on starting the chapter. Through Turning Point, I was accepted to attend my first Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which had been on my bucket list for five years. These connections were truly influencing my life in a positive way, all because of social media.

A few months later, I reapplied to be an FFL contributor and was accepted, one week before my first CPAC. I was so excited to finally be a part of this community of supportive, like-minded young women.  Jumping in head first, I started submitting content ideas within a day. Since I joined FFL, I have felt an even stronger connection to my activism and making my voice heard on such a wide platform. I don’t think I will ever stop being excited when I see how many likes or shares my articles get.  It is almost surreal to see my name on the website that I spent so long reading and admiring. The involvement I’ve had in activism over the past year has given me such joy and confidence.  It has also made me more knowledgeable and informed.

But enough about my story. This article is about you, and your story, that you have the privilege to begin writing today. Only you have the ability to determine the course of your activism. You have the power to make it a positive or negative story. There are going to be plenty of yes’s and no’s along the course of your activism journey.  People who are going to lift you up and people who are going to kick you down. Regardless of those people, it is how you respond that determines the course of your story.

First and foremost, when people raise you up, do not let their words and actions go to your head. It can be easy to get caught up in the retweets, likes, and comments and lose sight of your principles and yourself. The perks of political activism – such as the social media popularity, opportunities to meet famous pundits and politicians, attending amazing conferences, and even having the opportunity to be on television and radio – can easily inflate someone’s ego. Everyone involved in activism knows at least one person who got too big, too fast.  They ended up falling to the ground just as hard because this person lost sight of why he or she was in the movement in the first place. Never forget that the reason you started was to share and promote your principles, not necessarily yourself.

Secondly, and just as importantly, when people push you down, do not let them keep you down. There are always going to be people, whether they are involved in politics or otherwise, that are going to tell you that your opinion is stupid or that you do not have a place in politics. Don’t let their words keep you down. Take constructive criticism, sure, but there is going to be plenty of criticism that is not meant to help you better yourself. Ignore it. It’s going to be easier said than done, especially when someone says something that really pushes your buttons. Sometimes, not engaging with the trolls is the best thing you can do for both your mental health and your reputation as a young professional and an activist.

Finally, take a break every once in awhile. With social media and technology, it can be tempting to feel like you have to be on top of every news story as it comes through, with the first opinion on the first article that comes out of D.C. Don’t do that to yourself. For your own mental health as well as the quality of your opinions, take breaks. Go hiking. Pick up a hobby. Spend time with family and friends. Shut off your computer and phone for a little while and just relax. It’s just fine to allow politics and your activism to become a major part of your life.  Don’t forget to make room for other things in life, too. Balance is key to being happy and healthy throughout your activism.

Above all, remember to be kind to everyone you meet, because that attitude will take you further than any book or amount of retweets ever will. Good luck.

Cat B
FFL Contributor