Advocacy is support or promotion of a particular cause. Self-advocacy is identifying and communicating your own needs, and the act of representing yourself. You might also know it as speaking up for yourself. Here are three quick tips to self-advocate.
Tip number 1: Use “I” Statements.
An I-message or an I-statement is asserting one’s thoughts, feelings, and values, expressed as a sentence beginning with the word "I". Thus the term I-statement. This is a powerful tool for interpersonal communication because I-statements are direct and expressive.
Compared to You-statements, it takes any blame away from others during conversation and especially during conflict. For instance, “You aren’t listening to me,” compared to the I-statement, “I am in need of an open ear right now.”
I-statements tend to elicit better empathy and a better response in the listener because they aren’t put on the defense.
Now, don’t misinterpret this and simply throw “I feel” in front of a You-statement. For example, “I feel like you aren’t paying attention to me.” That still puts blame on the listener. Instead, express your feelings-- “I am frustrated right now because...,” or “I am feeling ignored because…”
I-statements are empowering, they create boundaries, but most importantly, they are easy to understand. It is the best way to begin and maintain self-advocacy.
Tip number 2: Have an opinion.
People actually appreciate when others have an opinion and can express those beliefs. Thinking you’ll be more “cool” or “chill” by never self-advocating is not good for mental health, but also, friends can actually become annoyed if you never develop or express your own thoughts.
Take the common question when hanging out with friends: “What movie do you want to see?” Imagine the response: “Oh, I don’t care. Whatever. You pick.”
Now imagine that a friend does pick a movie, but you scoff a little, or you make a face, or you say, “Eh, I don’t know. I’m not really into that one.”
They ask again, “Well then, what movie should we see?” If the response is, yet again, “Oh I don’t care. Whatever you want. I’m easy going,” this is a frustrating way of interacting and borders passive-aggressive behavior.
It’s fine to have an opinion! In fact, by advocating for our values and beliefs, we are well-respected and we develop clarity in our own wants and needs so we can better adapt in any situation and communicate as necessary.
Tip number 3: Be willing to change.
Remember that opinions can always change. With updated facts, reflect and rethink, and create new ways of living.
Adapting is one of the best parts of being human.
Being self-aware it takes an evolving self-concept, which is the view we have of ourselves. This directly impacts our self-esteem, which is the view we have of ourselves and our self-concept. For instance, you may look in the mirror and see age, gender, maybe race, but other specifics like an artist, athlete, or musician. This is your self-concept, and can flow as you live and learn. Your self-esteem includes the emotions you tie to your self-concept.
Anyone can have a positive self-esteem, no matter what shortcomings you might identify with your self-concept. Being willing to change is empowering because we don’t feel stuck in a personna as our personality and our interests mature, no matter what point in life.
This final tip for self-advocacy includes being aware of change and being able express, especially to ourselves, that we once had certain thoughts or beliefs, and those have either stayed with us because we value their part in our life, or they’ve changed a bit to fit who we really want to be.
“Growing Up Great!”
For more health tips geared towards adolescent boys, check out Growing Up Great!, a body-positive guide to getting through puberty confidently by respecting the body and all of its changes.