The election is over, and if your candidate lost, it might feel disastrous. We are doomed, and our worst fears are about to happen. Is this true, or is there a touch of a near-catastrophic, high-speed car chase involved?
The American Psychological Association defines catastrophizing as follows:
Vb. to exaggerate the negative consequences of events or decisions. People are said to be catastrophizing when they think that the worst possible outcome will occur from a particular action or in a particular situation or when they feel as if they are in the midst of a catastrophe in situations that may be serious and upsetting but are not necessarily disastrous. The tendency to catastrophize can unnecessarily increase levels of anxiety and lead to maladaptive behavior.
Although we may not like the election outcome, the sky isn’t going to fall. What is certain is that how we approach defeat can impact our well-being and effectiveness in initiating change in the future.
Take a deep breath. And try these suggestions to make the best of the situation.
Step away from social media and pity parties
Avoid the temptation to doomscroll on social media or rant online about how the end is near. It doesn’t do any good and increases stress, impacting your relationships with friends, family, colleagues, and clients. Slamming the opposing side online won’t change the election result. Accepting that your candidate didn’t win frees you to see the opportunity this outcome presents.
Make in-person discussions short, acknowledge disappointment, talk about it with friends and family, and then move on. Rehashing the results and potential negative consequences every time you meet a kindred spirit is not healthy or productive (read the definition of catastrophizing again.)
Becoming complacent after defeat is tempting, especially if you were politically active leading up to the vote. Discouraged by the results, disillusioned by voter apathy, and fed up with the number of armchair critics who do nothing but complain, it may feel like time to give up the cause.
Take time to pause and energize, then start again. Just because there’s a new party in town doesn’t mean you can’t continue to push for better ways. Governments come and go, but strategic, grass-roots advocacy movements will continue to be responsible for significant legislative successes long after an incumbent’s tenure.
The key is persistence, creating momentum by setting an example, involving others, and building numbers too big to ignore. Pick a cause and get on the radar by continuing to lobby for the change you want. Politics is about power, and there is power in numbers. You’ll be more successful when you join like-minded people and act as a group. Petitions, demonstrations, phone calls, and writing letters are tools that raise awareness. And without awareness and recognition of an issue – and people willing to be a voice and encourage others – the swell of numbers needed to insist on change won’t happen.
Lead the way by becoming known as a voice of reason in the community – someone calm, rational, and respectful, not afraid to speak up, but who also truly listens to others. The difference is taking frontline responsibility versus secretly hoping someone else will step forward and put in the effort needed. Be brave.
Governments move slowly. It can take years to enact a new law or change an existing one. Persistence is a primary ingredient – your actions now will impact the future. Be inspired by determined campaigners whose actions paved the way for results we benefit from today. Less than a hundred years ago, women in Canada weren’t recognized as persons, which seems inconceivable now. Five Alberta women showed tireless dedication fighting that inequality to victory in a historic court ruling recognizing women as qualified for Senate appointments, clearing the way for Canada’s first female senator in 1930. They didn’t give up.
Hold the new incumbent accountable by asking for a one-on-one meeting to discuss top concerns. Leave negative emotions, resentment, and any tendency to be a right-fighter (when your goal is to be right at any cost) at home. Get to know them as a person, a neighbour, and someone whom, like you, is entitled to a point of view. Let them know you will continue to advocate on important issues and expect them to listen as your elected representative. Your role isn’t to make their life easier; it’s to hold them responsible for ensuring all sides are considered.
Good guys don’t always win, especially when they are divided and less determined than their adversaries. The desire for liberty may be ingrained in every human breast, but so is the potential for complacency, confusion, and cowardice. And losing has a price.Madeleine K. Albright