I spent many years very ill, going from doctor to doctor and being the “perfect patient”. I did everything they suggested and took EVERY medication that was prescribed up until my kidneys gave out as I was taking upwards of 20 medications a day. I realized I was spending a fortune and repeating the same treatments over and over without relief.
It was at that point I chose to start taking responsibility for this body I am in and realized I needed to advocate for myself. That no one could remember what it was that I needed from appointment to appointment. I came to understand that each specialist would do what they saw fit but that it was up to me to not only tune in to what was right for me, but to track what had been done and keep detailed notes of what I needed. Upon this realization I started to pay attention to my behavior and mindset within these appointments. I observed that I felt much like a victim at my appointments and blindly trusted each physician to know what was right for me. This was the point in the appointments that I would then shut down, having no confidence that I knew what was right for myself or how to ask for the things I came to know I needed.
So I changed some things:
I started to just be with my body, listen to it and keep clear notes of what I needed. I recognized that I did shut down during my doctors appointments and learned to ask for help. I sat with someone that I really trusted and who was willing to take the time to help me and I explained what I had experienced and what I needed and then I would take them with me to doctors appointments. This is where I transitioned from being a victim to being in control of myself and my outcomes. I am happy to say that I am now healthy and thriving. This wouldn’t have happened had I not stopped and clearly looked at the situation directly in front of me and chosen to take control and ask for help.
So this is the process and information that was born of these experiences and one that I have given to many clients that have found the same success.
So, how does someone advocate for themselves?
When I have asked this question of clients most of them do not have a plan in place or knowledge regarding how to go about this, much less knowing the appropriate time to advocate for oneself. Keep reading and you will find out.
When is it important to advocate for yourself? Anytime that you need to stand up for yourself and your beliefs, anytime you need assistance from someone (whether it be health, school, work related) and anytime you need to feel heard.
What is important for you to know when advocating for yourself? Knowing your value, knowing that something needs to be addressed, knowing how you feel and knowing what you stand for. It’s important to fact gather and organize data around what it is that you are trying to advocate for. Then it’s the courage to stand up and ask questions that will lead you to solutions to your issue.
6 steps to advocating for yourself:
- Know what you need:
- Start by brainstorming on a piece of paper everything that is not sitting well with you around the subject
- See if you can dig a little deeper and ask yourself “why” this is bothering you, and write that out. This is the beginning of self-awareness and will help you explain to whomever is advocating with you why you are asking what you are. If you can’t find the words sometimes pictures or describing the feelings you are having might be helpful also.
- If something is stumping you, move on. As the pictures becomes clearer, you questions will be answered.
- List in an organized manner:
- Organize your thoughts on a piece of paper, or record using your phone or a recording device. This will help to articulate to another person what is most important to you.
- Find resources to speak to (if outside help is needed):
- Find a resource that you trust and ask for their help in backing you up, or to bounce ideas off if needed. Usually it’s best to pick someone who is a cheerleader in life for you and someone who knows you very well and accepts you for who you are.
- Review with this source close to you so that you can get clarity in what you need to ask for, you may want to ask this person to help you find resources if needed.
- Clearly ask for what you need:
- If you don’t know what you need go back to step 1 and clarify a little more.
- Ask your resources for space to process and to ask others for what you need based upon the list that you made. What this means is you ask for the time to speak slowly and clearly about what you need and have them listen. It is at this point you can investigate what you need with this person based on the list of what is important to you
- Put a game plan in place:
- Organize with the person the thoughts that came to you when talking this out. List them out, group them, whatever seems appropriate. Lending a problem organization can often make the solution clearer. Doing this with the person that you have identified as an advocate gives them insight into your values and motives so that they may better support you.
- Generate steps to tackle the problem, from the first action to resolution.
- Make the steps clear, single action steps that build on each other. Think through each action. The steps should be related to the challenge, clear, measurable and manageable.
- After you have your thoughts organized, it is at this point you start to find outside resources to help you get the things that you have issues with resolved.
- Hold yourself responsible:
- Make sure to give yourself timelines and hold yourself accountable for these action items as you do them.
- If a step is complicated or takes too long, break it into smaller steps. Everything happens one action at a time. Often we get blocked by obstacles that just aren’t yet broken into simpler action steps.
- Work on the list. Do the tasks. Feel good about making progress!
These accountability steps will be the key in getting to know yourself and why you do what you do. Identify them, ask for space and involve the trusted perspective of another. It is only then that you can advocate for yourself and explain to others why you need what you do. When you are sure of these things you will be able to ask in a clear and concise way, and you will be able to better process the information you get in return.
You also set the stage for someone to be respectful of you, because you are demonstrating it by being respectful to yourself.
This is advocating for yourself!
If you found this article helpful, you may also like our content on The 4 Stages Of Creating A Lasting Change In Yourself (Or Your Child With Asperger's), or Self Care: Taking Care Of Yourself So You Can Take Care Of Them