Self-advocacy is a way to stand up for ourselves, make our own decisions, and go for what we believe is right for our life. This takes skill and often is learned beginning in infancy and carries on into adulthood. We learn from those around us and how we are communicated to. Growing up we depend on others to advocate for us, particularly our family members. When we don’t have a voice, we trust in them to help ensure our needs are met. What about after that, when you get your voice and things aren’t going how I want them to? We must be given the space to share our thoughts, values, and beliefs. Without this space, we can begin to feel weak about ourselves, like we have never even had a voice. Self-advocacy is about having the space to share how you feel and work towards what you feel is right.
So, when is self-advocacy useful? There are plenty of opportunities for you to be an advocate for yourself, such as when you want to be listened to, when you are receiving services from another person or professional, and when you are not satisfied with how something is going. We create paths and no one is able to identify how you think or feel, so without expressing it, these paths won’t change.
But how do I advocate for myself you might be asking. First, you must believe in yourself and that you know what is best for you. This confidence helps drive your ability to speak out and ask for what you need and want. Self-advocacy allows you to make decisions you feel are best for your life. Self-advocacy and can help you problem solve when there is an issue or concern. You can write out what you are working towards and begin developing smaller goals that reach towards your ultimate goal. This can help act as are reminder of the path you are creating for yourself. You want to develop a support system of those who can help you and have similar viewpoints. Your level of self-determination will drive how far you advocate for yourself. If you want something bad enough, you will work to get it.
Here are some questions to help get your started in your self-advocacy journey:
Remember, you are your biggest supporter. Assertive communication is key to self-advocacy. An assertive communicator is able to express their needs and wants, in a strong but not forcible way. More on communication styles in our upcoming blogs.
Written by: Meaghan Warner, LCSW-S