Self-Advocacy Your Voice Matters
If I have learned anything during my thirty-something years on this earth, it’s how important it is to speak up. Self-advocacy is so imperative in life in our personal lives, our careers, early on in schools, self-advocacy is the action of representing oneself or one's views or interests. In order to self-advocate you need to be able to communicate with others, to express your needs, concerns, desires, wants, hopes, and needs for certain situations.
Early on in life my mother was my advocate, and as someone who suffered (and suffers) from chronic illness and anxiety one of the best lessons she could have taught me was self-advocacy. Personally, I was also incredibly shy, so even telling a medical provider what was wrong, what I was feeling, or what I was going through was a challenge for me. In learning to speak up for yourself, to speak for yourself, and to be heard, you decide when and where you are heard. You get to decide what you want to do in this moment in time, you have say in your own future, you become your own, confident, self-advocate. Part of self-advocacy is understanding both your strengths and your weaknesses and owning them. It means developing attainable goals, being assertive, and being able to make decisions.
The process of self-advocacy is a journey, it’s learned, and to be honest, it’s an ongoing process, and sometimes a challenge. As individuals, we grow, develop, and change constantly over time. There are several parts to becoming an effective self-advocate. First, knowing yourself, knowing your needs, and knowing how to get what you need.
Recently I went through this process with my health, I had been having new symptoms and had been seeing a new specialist. They were running the “basic” tests, which kept coming back normal, or my blood work would be slightly elevated, which wasn’t alarming to the medical provider. I knew something wasn’t right. Why? Because I know my body, I listen to my body, and I know me. I knew my needs were not being met, I wasn’t digging hoping for a problem, I was looking for an answer. Let’s be honest, no one want’s to feel miserable, especially every time they eat. I knew I needed to do the research and present my case to the medical provider, and I did. I did so much research, I came up with two plausible diagnosis. I brought them to the doctor’s attention along with the testing for each, low and behold, nine months of suffering and being more sick than necessary, I got a diagnosis by advocating for myself.
Not all cases will be this extreme, it may be as simple as advocating about a pay increase at work, for more vacation time in your contract before accepting a position, letting someone know if something bothers you, or perhaps talking to your partner if you really don’t enjoy their choice in television shows and would like to compromise and take turns. Whatever it is that you would like to see change, no matter how big or small it seems, you can make it happen by speaking up for yourself. We often don’t believe it matters, or we think to ourselves that we will discuss it another time, but honestly, there is no time like the present.
Advocacy, in all of its forms, strives to make sure that everyone, especially those who are most vulnerable in society, are able to be heard on issues that are important to them.
Don't forget to speak up for yourself, be confident, and remember - your voice matters!