I have struggled with confidence for many years. It’s weird because as young girl I was so creative and free spirited. You would often find me creating something, putting together plays, projects and dance routines for my family. My cousins would say I was rather bossy and always making them participate in my adventures! My voice was LOUD - then middle school and my teens hit and somehow my voice and confidence was gone. I quietly entered womanhood and motherhood and my voice got even more quieter when it came to myself. Now when it comes to my daughters, hubby family, friends and causes that I am passionate about I am the loudest one in the room. However, when it came to me it is a totally different story.
Self-advocacy is learning to speak up on your own behalf. You are the only one that knows how you feel and what you need so you are the best person to speak up…duh! That sounds wonderful on paper and to most people but what happens when it is lost or disappears because you learned somewhere on your journey that your voice, opinions and needs did not matter? I think often as mothers and women this gets lost when we are caring for others so much. We often feel that people are mind readers and know what we need. Perfect example when I had my meltdown at work a month ago (check out my previous blog post to read more about my eye-opening experience) and my manager asked how I got to that point. We assume that people know what we need but in truth it is up to us to say something and to keep saying it if necessary.
I recently had to speak up in a situation at work that was not working well for me. Most of the time I am a “go with the flow” and “take a lot of crap and strap on a smile” type of gal but lately this has not been working! I am finding myself in more and more situations where just pushing through and not speaking up is just not happening. So, I spoke up and addressed the issues I was having and that things were not working well for me. I was shocked that I remained calm, was direct and firm. My managers honestly did not know what was going on and were disappointed that I did not speak up earlier before it got bad. They are working on solutions to readjust things to make it better not only for myself but also for my team.
I am learning that life can be so much easier if we speak up - duh so simple, right? I am on a new path of self-love and discovery that is changing how I feel about my needs daily. We can often get lost in the shuffle. We look up one day and realize that life is going great for everyone else but ourselves! I found these terrific tips to help anyone that might be struggling with this topic to help guide you through the process of self-advocacy. These steps may take time so be patient with yourself along the way!
5 steps to self-advocacy:
1. Take responsibility and believe in yourself. You have the right to speak up for yourself and only you know what is best for you, therefore it is your responsibility to create change in your life.
2. Be organized. Know your rights, know what you want to speak-up about and gather any information that is required to do so.
3. Develop a plan. Plan how you are going to speak-up, then practice to yourself, a family member or a close friend.
4. Take action. Speak-up for yourself, using open communication while remaining respectful to others.
5. Seek support if needed. It is important to ask for help when you feel you need it.
Feel free to leave a comment on other tips that you use to be your best self-advocate! We can all use them. Cheers to finding your voice, using it in EVERY area of your life and pushing back!
By Kara Norman- Empower Her, Inc.
Kara Norman Atlanta Based Women Empowerment Thought Leader and bi-weekly blog contributor.
Kara Norman has been working with Women and Girls for a number of years. Her nonprofit organization Empower Her Inc , have led to many opportunities in the space of making social changes as it deals with women and their many roles in society. You can learn more about Kara Norman and Empower Her Inc. at http://www.empowerherinc.com/