Self-advocacy can be a terrifying process for many people, often because it involves having tough conversations with the people in our lives. These people might include friends, family, and loved ones, or managers and coworkers.
In order to advocate for yourself, you have to tell other people about your thoughts and feelings. It also includes expressing what you need and want in various situations. Another aspect of advocating for yourself means you can make your own decisions, and then take responsibility for the outcomes.
There are many reasons you should improve your ability to advocate for yourself. First, it will increase your self-confidence and self-worth. It will also help you become better at conflict resolution. Finally, life will feel much better as you fulfill some of your needs and grow into your own identity.
These tips will have you learning how to advocate for yourself in no time. The steps are simple but will require practice and effort to master. It might feel uncomfortable at times, but the end will be worth it!
“As you become your own advocate and your own steward, your life will beautifully transform.” — Miranda J. Barrett
How to advocate for yourself in your personal life
There are many situations that might require you to advocate for yourself in your personal life. Maybe you are in a romantic relationship that is not meeting your physical or emotional needs.
It could also be a toxic family member that doesn’t respect your boundaries. Or how about that friend that is all take and no give? It is important to remember these three things when advocating for your mental health in these situations.
Decide what it is you really want.
In order to do this, simply start with a series of questions, according to Phil McGraw and his book Life Strategies. What do I want? What actions are required to get it? How would it make me feel when I achieved it? What is the root of what I want to feel?
It might take you a few rounds of going through the questions before figuring out what you really want. However, this exercise is a great way to get your brain thinking deeper than just the “I want to be happy” answer.
In order to decide what you really want, you also have to be honest with yourself. This means if something isn’t working in your life, you are going to have to examine why that is. The answers might lead to further introspection, but this is a critical step to being able to self-advocate.
Believe in yourself
This is where increasing your self-esteem comes into play. In order to effectively self-advocate, you must believe that your thoughts and feelings are valid. You have much to contribute to the world, and your needs matter!
In order to believe in yourself more, start with identifying and challenging your negative beliefs. Try reading some motivational quotes or jotting down positive affirmations. When you catch yourself engaging in negative self-talk, stop yourself and immediately say, “This is not a true thought.” Then replace it with a positive thought that is true, no matter how insignificant you think that thought is. This will take some getting used to, but with practice, it gets easier!
Express yourself clearly and assertively
When you are letting people know what your needs are, be clear and to the point. It’s easy to get caught up in the emotions and details, but other people don’t actually need to know your reasons. They just need to know what you need and what you expect.
Also, do not let people walk all over you. If they try to tell you that your needs are unrealistic or unwarranted, stand your ground. You can repeat yourself about what you need and how you expect to get it. Be prepared to make some changes if they are unwilling to either support you or change their behavior.
Follow-through is important! You can not just tell someone what you need from a relationship, and have them disregard your feelings. You deserve much more than that.
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” — J. K. Rowling
How to advocate for yourself in a professional setting
Many of the ways you advocate for yourself in your relationships translate into the workplace as well. You still need to decide what you want, believe in yourself, and communicate well. There are a few more ways you can advocate for yourself in a professional setting.
Know your rights and don’t be afraid to assert them
The workplace has a variety of laws and practices in place to ensure that employees are treated equally. If you feel something in your workplace violates ethics or equality, then know what your rights are involving the situation.
Depending on the severity of the issue, you could speak with your HR representative, a member of senior management, or even a lawyer. Arm yourself with the facts and evidence and take the steps necessary to make sure that your rights are protected.
Take a moment and think things through
Standing up for yourself is important, but this doesn’t mean having an emotional blow-up at your supervisor. You will need to keep your calm and think before you act. Any attempt at self-advocacy will be received better if you can articulate in a manner that people can follow.
If you are so upset about something that happened at work, take a moment and cool off. Don’t just storm out and go home. With that being said, you could tell your supervisor that you will be taking a personal day for the rest of the day, and schedule a meeting with them to discuss the important matter tomorrow.
Have a plan
Knowing the facts and creating a planning strategy are essential parts of advocating for yourself at work. Many employees suffer in silence, believing that no one will help them.
However, this might not be true. Companies spend a lot of money on training and human resource departments that are designed to help employees through a variety of issues.
Before you quit and leave a company, go through the proper channels of advocating for yourself. You might be surprised at the outcome. Or you might still end up deciding to leave. Either way, you gathered the facts, created a plan, and spoke up.
“Stay strong. Stand up. Have a voice.” — Shawn Johnson
Regardless of the situation, advocating for yourself is an important life skill
As mentioned, advocating for yourself can help build your self-esteem and help you ahead in life. This empowering practice will help you make decisions about your life and ensure you are living your best one!
Take a moment and think of a time in the past where you should have advocated for yourself. How would your life be different now? Don’t look back with sadness and regret, but use this motivation to speak up for yourself in the future.
Feel free to share your stories, or tips on how you self-advocate in the comment section below. You never know when your example of self-advocacy might inspire someone else to stand up for themselves.