“Self-Advocacy” is a relatively new concept and word. I never remember seeing or hearing about this until the last few years. In our puritanical society the idea of placing any importance at all on our personal needs has been frowned upon to the point of attempting to place blame and guilt on someone who practices it.
When I was growing up there was a song named “Others” that was insanely popular in the Bible-Belt Southern state that I live in, Alabama. While it’s good to care for others, we must care for ourselves first if we want to be able to do that successfully for very long. My Mother was a wonderful caregiver who performed her caregiving with diligence. She didn’t take care of herself, however, and she left this earth earlier because of it. She left people, and many cats, who needed her. Self-advocacy would have made a big difference in her and my world. My son barely remembers her.
Self-Advocacy is learning how to speak up for yourself and make the best decisions for YOUR life. It also involves learning how to get the information that you need so that you can understand the things that are of interest to you. Finding out who will support you in your life, knowing your rights and responsibilities and taking the lead role in your self-determination are also a major part of this vital life skill. Are you advocating for yourself?
Sometimes when we neglect ourselves we take pride in that role. You can tell if that’s your case if you always want people to know all about your sacrifice. Then the caregiving has become a tool for attention getting. All of the attention in the world won’t buy back your health when you have let yourself go without self-care until you are the one at the doctor’s office. Take good care of yourself, accomplish your goals, lead by example and you will get all the attention that you can handle. While you may manage to accumulate some sympathy with self-neglect, in the end no one is attracted to someone who has let themselves go until they are a broken shell. To have friends, be someone that those people who you want to befriend want to be.
How many times have you allowed your best health initiatives to be crushed by people in your life who are envious, jealous of your success or just controlling? Why, may I ask you, do you even allow those people into your life? I have had my time with those types but I finally learned. One of the worst was a frienemy who brought home made cheesecake, that took 8 hours to make, and sat it on my doorstep while I was sleeping. Forty pounds and six months later when I finally got a grip on what was going on, she openly admitted that she didn’t like me being smaller than her. I lost the forty pounds on my body and the 250 that was bringing the cheesecake to my doorstep. That is an example of self-advocacy. Do what’s best for YOU.
I am constantly barraged with requests to visit with a relative who is terribly negative. Everything that this person talks about is negative. It’s not good for me to listen to that for hours on end, so I don’t. If I visited that person as often as they want, I would never even be able to work out and then my life would be unpleasant. I would eventually get broke down, fat and sick. The years would catch up with me fast and I would no longer be “atypical”. The choice of how I live my life and what I allow into my world is mine to make. It’s yours to make about your life. Are you doing the best thing for your mental and physical health or are you bowing to societal pressures to conform to “what is expected of you”? How is your choice working for you?
Oh, God. It’s “The Season of Gluttony”. From now until Spring people will find more excuses to binge eat and abandon workouts than any other time of the year. Ignore the peer pressure to join in the debauchery. Decide now that you will do better than that and make your Spring a joyous event.
1- Clearly define what you want out of life. If you’re just drifting through life with no clear goals, it’s easy to be manipulated and abused by others. Define your goals and make every decision to move you closer to those goals. Ignore those people who try to sabotage you or get them out of your life completely.
2-Seek out the information that you need to accomplish your goals. Regardless of what we want, if we are ignorant about how to get it, we cannot move towards that goal. Research, the internet is a world of knowledge at your fingertips. Take advantage!
3-Make changes that need to be made to accommodate those goals. If you want to be an African safari hunter and you are living with someone who thinks you’re crazy and forbids you to go out of the house then maybe you need to change something.
4-Be willing to work HARD for those goals. I have heard it said, “Wish in in one hand and spit in the other and see which hand gets full faster”. BAM. It’s fine to have lofty goals but unless you back those goals up with action, nothing is going to happen. David says that “Everybody wants to look like a body builder but they don’t want to do body builder stuff.” So true. How about a little less talk and a little more action?
5-Now do it. Knowing what you want, learning about it, making changes to accommodate the action and getting psyched to a commitment to yourself to work hard are all mandatory but now you’ve got to do the work.
6-Keep learning. Just as soon as you think that you have “arrived”, you have lost it all. Every positive action that we take towards self-advocacy and self-improvement requires maintenance. Regardless of your goal and what it takes to get there, there is always something to learn and a way to improve your game.
7-Allow yourself to feel good, really good, about yourself. It’s okay. High confidence and high self-esteem are good things. They not only make you a much happier person, they instill confidence in you from other people. When you feel good about yourself and you are ever-learning and achieving, people around you will notice and feel secure and comfortable around you. This is just one way that self-advocacy and extreme self-care help others.
8-Remember that “This too will pass.” That was a saying of my Mother’s as she dealt with her health problems and other rigors of her life. She was right. The worst things imaginable are temporary trials. Don’t let hard times make you abandon your commitment to yourself for good health. Hard times quite often bring on binge eating and abandonment of exercise. Those things can cause permanent damage over a temporary problem.Just don’t let it happen. Stand firm in the storm and you will come out intact. Never give in. Never give up. The storm will end, and if you have stood firm and cared for yourself throughout, you will emerge a Victor, not a Victim.
9-Be willing to make changes in your strategy. My goal for strength training is clear and lofty. When I began, I had been riding around hundreds of miles in my car every week working for a major weight loss group and I had gotten too soft. I was losing muscle and strength fast. My body was taking on a shape that I didn’t like and I seemed helpless to change the direction that I was going. That’s when I discovered David’s Way and learned about the tools that I needed to change my direction. I quit that job and that program and began eating David’s Way and lifting heavy weights. I also made drastic changes in my personal life because I could not live the life of a weight lifter with my then current life situation. I have come a long way towards my goals. Change was mandatory.
10-Repeat. And no, it doesn’t get easier. It just gets worth it.
Be your own best friend. Take care of yourself. Be a self-advocate and then be a blessing to the whole world, because you will be complete.