Advocating for yourself can be an intimidating feat for many. It might cause you to feel uncomfortable considering that you have to “self-promote” your own needs and goals to get what you want. This is often a scary feeling for people who aren’t used to standing up for their beliefs, values, and desires. However, it’s something you must learn to get comfortable doing if you want to advance in life and find success in your career. Read on to learn more about the importance of self-advocacy, how it affects your mental health, and how to put it into practice.
What it means to advocate for yourself
Being your own advocate means effectively communicating your needs, wants, and goals to accomplish your personal and professional objectives.
“When you advocate for yourself, you are communicating to yourself and others what you value and your worth,” says Kristian Bulliner, LSW, a therapist based in Illinois. She added that self-advocacy “means you have defined what makes you feel whole, what you need to function as the best version of yourself, and how to maintain a life that is sustainable for you.”
The importance of self-advocacy
“When you learn to advocate for yourself, you are taking agency over the outcome of your life,” Bulliner explained. “You step in the driver’s seat and begin to identify where you are going, why it matters to you, and how you will get there.”
In this lifetime, you may often find yourself having to defend your worth to earn the support of others. Whether it’s at work, school, or in your family or community, you’ll discover that success is more obtainable when you can assertively speak up for your own best interests.
Self-advocacy presents several benefits, from expanding awareness of your needs by bringing attention to the challenges you’re facing to soliciting the help of others who can offer effective solutions to combat those very problems and complement your limitations. “This [allows you] to get in touch with who you are, what you like, what you want, and why it’s important to you,” says Bulliner. “Once you have a grasp on those things, it is much easier to communicate your needs to others and you feel more in touch with yourself.”
How it affects your mental health
Self-advocacy has a huge effect on one’s mental health. “Engaging in self-advocacy can also help reduce feelings of isolation, increase self-esteem, and foster a greater sense of control over one’s mental health,” says Jamila R. Jones, LCPC, an Illinois -based therapist. “Ultimately, by actively advocating for their own mental health needs, individuals can cultivate a stronger sense of resilience and empowerment in the face of mental health challenges.”
Mastering the art of self-advocacy
Mastering the art of self-advocacy begins with a few simple steps. Here are 5 essential tips on how to successfully advocate your goals and interests at home, work, or in your community.
Tip #1: Know your worth
Do you recognize how valuable you are? To walk the walk of knowing and affirming your worth, you must first talk the talk. That all starts with you—what you think about yourself internally and what you tell yourself in the mirror. Positive self-talk and belief in your skills and abilities can ultimately help you build self-confidence.
BEING great (and convincing others of your greatness), requires believing that you are. Take pride in what makes you unique, like your experiences and accomplishments. Your uniqueness amplifies your value, as it’s a key differentiator that you can leverage to your advantage at the bargaining table.
Tip #2: Get clarity and understanding of your goals
Make sure that you’re clear on what you want before asking for the support, guidance, and resources needed to accomplish your goals. Gain next-level clarity and understanding of your needs by asking yourself the following questions:
- What are my strengths?
- What are my growth areas?
- What are my values and beliefs?
- What are my wants, needs, and goals?
Assess your current mindset by taking stock of these important details. It’ll equip you to address your needs with confidence when the time comes to advocate for yourself.
Tip #3: Solidify support
Identify your allies early enough to establish a rapport with them. “Don’t be afraid to seek support from others and develop a support network of people who can offer advice, assistance, and encouragement along the way,” says Jones.
Foster relationships with individuals who have your best interests in mind before you ever ask them for help. This goes a long way in achieving your goals. Your support system can serve as backup when you need others to vouch for you, help you stay on track with what you’re trying to accomplish, and offer sound advice on how to navigate the similar experiences you share.
Tip #4: Set healthy boundaries
If you truly want to achieve your goals, you have to put an end to people-pleasing and being a “yes” girl. Set realistic expectations with your peers in terms of your capabilities and limitations. Be firm with your availability and don’t make yourself too accessible. You have to show those around you that you mean business for them to take you seriously. People are more willing to help you when they’re assured that you aren’t going to waste their time or energy.
Tip #5: Communicate clearly and assertively
Speak firmly and with confidence. Articulate your words in a way that the people listening can grasp what you’re saying with ease. Give poised responses when communicating with others. These communication best practices will show that you are a leader who can take authority. “When presenting your views or needs, take the time to organize your thoughts in advance, and use clear language to convey your message,” Jones recommended.
You got this, sis
You owe it to yourself to be your biggest cheerleader. If you could use a little help in the areas of self-advocacy and self-confidence, a licensed therapist can help you do the inner work in healing the parts of you that have caused you to feel unworthy of the best that life has to offer. Your therapist can also serve as a sounding board in the way you convey your thoughts verbally, and offer a boost in confidence with your mindset and communication skills.