Self-Advocacy: What is getting in your way?
If you are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed, you aren't alone. Most of us are facing challenges that are stretching us to the brink, personally and professionally. Have you thought about what you need right now to be successful at home and work?
Barriers to self-advocacy
One of the most common reasons people don't ask for help or support is fear. They worry they will be viewed as weak, incompetent or a burden. Often our identity is tied to being the type of person who can figure things out, find answers, and be 'strong'...no matter what we are facing. It may even feel selfish to ask others for what we need if we think they are struggling as well.
But as the difficult days continue, the burdens we carry feel heavier and heavier, and we start to feel isolated and resentful. Although we may not do it intentionally, we can push others away and damage relationships as a result. We often assume others will think less of us simply because we need help, even through we feel appreciated and valued when they reach out to us.
Self-advocacy at work
In the workplace, leaders can't just assume their teams will bring up concerns and ask for help when it is needed. Providing regular opportunities to discuss their needs makes it easier to raise uncomfortable topics. When we open the door to welcome honest and vulnerable conversations, we can find solutions and options together for the individual and the team to succeed.
We also need to model self-care and self-advocacy for our teams to provide the psychological safety that creates a culture where people are comfortable asking for what they need to be successful. Your team is watching, and each day that you push through and 'tough it out' sends a clear signal about how you measure success.
Three steps to self-advocacy
Although self-advocacy isn't always comfortable, it is a critical skill that you can build with practice and support. It starts with knowing who you are and what you need to be successful, especially in times of significant change or disruption, and recognizing that we all have resources available.
Know your self:
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Have you set limits and boundaries?
What boosts or drains your energy?
Know what you need:
What are your personal and professional goals?
Have you determined what you need to feel healthy and focused?
What resources, help or support would be most useful right now?
Know how to get it:
Does support require permission or buy-in from others?
Do you have any mentors or friends who can help you practice asking for help?
Have you explored options available through your employer, family and community?
Prevent exhaustion and overwhelm
Self-advocacy takes practice, and doesn't necessarily feel comfortable at first. If you are still hesitating to reach out, consider the risks to your mental and physical health of continuing down your current path without making a change. The relationships that could be strengthened by trusting others enough to be vulnerable and honest.
Nobody can read your mind to figure out what you need, so the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to avoid significant exhaustion and burnout. Ultimately self-advocacy is your responsibility...but there are many options and resources available to help you on this journey.
Author: Becky Jacobs, Chief Engagement Officer