How to use self-advocacy to improve your life

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Out of all the self-help terms, we hear about self-advocacy less often. In the beginning of any healing journey, we’re consumed with self-care, self preservation, self-protection.

But as our sense of self improves and we learn our value, we take things a step further. We begin to advocate on our own behalf.

That means going beyond what can sometimes feel like the defensive state of setting boundaries. And really standing up for ourselves and demanding what we deserve.

Since we all have different needs, self-advocacy begins with understanding your own. You no longer apologize for having unique needs, but self-advocate by requesting that they be met.

You don’t expect other people to know your needs. Instead, you vocalize them clearly or in writing with specifics about what you require.

The role of childhood trauma

If you grew up in a home where your needs went unmet consistently, you may struggle with self-advocacy. For many of us, it’s a foreign concept which we simply never considered as a right.

If you grew up in a home where your needs went unmet consistently, you may struggle with self-advocacy. Click To Tweet

We’re so used to having our needs pushed aside, that we’ve suppressed them. We might shrug our shoulders and accept things because that’s what we’re used to.

Unmet needs can feel like home to us. Speaking up for ourselves can feel wildly self-indulgent and even verboten. We may have an image of ourselves as “good” because we don’t ask for too much.

But as you travel on your healing journey, that “go with the flow” amicability may not work for you anymore. You will become more active in your desire to have your needs met and more confident in expressing those needs.

That’s where self-advocacy comes in. I believe it happens when your inner child has received enough nurturing that she’s no longer running the show.

You’ve stepped in as the adult to protect that inner child. You won’t put up with your needs and desires going unrecognized anymore.

When I was younger, I found it easier to advocate for others than myself. Though it’s noble to defend the underdog, we often bypass our own needs and try to earn our “goodness” by helping others instead of ourselves.

Self-advocacy means asserting yourself and voicing your needs. It means acting as that strong protector to yourself that you’ve always been to others.

Self-advocacy means acting as that strong protector to yourself that you've always been to others. Click To Tweet

Reasons we avoid self-advocacy


There are many solid reasons to avoid self-advocacy so don’t blame yourself.

1. Fear of anger

A fear of anger may stop you from self-advocating. But anger is an amazing catalyst for change. It tells you that something is wrong and can propel you to take action.

A powerful emotion, anger can be harnessed for immense good and life improvement. When suppressed, however, internalized anger can make you ill and has been linked to many diseases.

2. Childhood trauma

If you were raised to believe your needs didn’t matter, punished for your anger, or worse, self-advocacy will not come naturally to you. It will feel dangerous and there’s good reason for that – it was.

3. Need for acceptance

All human beings want to feel accepted and loved. If you fear that advocating on your own behalf will result in rejection, you’ll think twice about it.

Again, there’s a fear of ostracization that goes back to childhood. And it can go back much farther than that to our reptilian brain.

4. Fear of consequences

Just as boundary setting elicits consequences, so can self-advocacy. It’s not as though everyone will applaud you for standing up for yourself.

Many won’t like it and will try to stop you from changing your life and getting what you want because it doesn’t benefit them. Do it anyway.

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