Part of compassionately caring for ourselves is being our own best advocate. It’s being a thoughtful, persistent, attentive, respectful advocate for our needs, our hearts, our souls. It is being in your own corner and on your own side. It’s being a cheerleader and a friend to yourself.
And being our own best advocate is vital for all aspects of our lives in all kinds of ways.
For instance, if you’re going to therapy, being your own best advocate looks like speaking up and being honest about everything (even though this can be really hard; but you’ve no doubt done many hard things). It’s speaking up when you don’t understand what your therapist is saying and when you have a question about anything (no matter how silly or awkward it might feel).
It’s making sure you understand your treatment plan, if you have one. It’s giving your therapist feedback on how therapy is actually going for you. It’s speaking up when you’re not sure if progress is being made. It’s being honest about your feelings, about dreading therapy (if that’s the case), about something that brings you shame.
As one psychologist told me, “Being a ‘good client’ doesn’t mean being on your very best behavior, it means being the most authentic, unfiltered version of yourself.” After all, this is how things change and improve and dreams become reality. This is how you honor yourself.
Here’s another example of advocating for yourself: If a doctor prescribes a certain medication to you, have a thorough discussion about its side effects and what benefits you can expect. Bring up any questions or concerns you have.
How will this interact with other medication? When should I feel better? What will this actually look like? How should we track my progress? When is the best time to take this medication? What adverse effects should I expect? How common are they? What can I do to minimize those side effects?
Ask about whether you’ll need to taper off the medication—slowly and systematically decreasing the dose—when you no longer need or want to take it, and what this process will look like. (Some medications cannot be stopped abruptly, because they can trigger withdrawal-like symptoms. This can happen with antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which can cause insomnia, agitation, dizziness, and flu-like symptoms).
We also can advocate for ourselves in our relationships. We can identify our needs. Do I need support right now? Am I feeling connected to my loved one? How do I feel about the way we navigate conflict? What am I OK with? What am I not OK with? Do I feel valued in this relationship? Do I have any emotional, physical, financial, or spiritual concerns?
Once we identify our needs, we can clearly, kindly express them. I’d really like … I’m not available then, but I’m available at this time … No, thank you … What I really need is …
We can advocate for ourselves by asking our loved ones and others for support in different situations. This could be anything from delegating a task to asking for a hug to having a heart-to-heart conversation about something you’re really concerned about. What kind of support do you need? What kind of support will simplify your life? What kind of support will meet your needs?
Because there are so many ways to advocate for ourselves on a daily basis and in different situations, take some time to explore what this entails for you. What does advocating for yourself in all spheres of your life look like? What does advocating for yourself look like at work and at home? What about at the doctor’s office? What about every day?