Standing up for yourself can be challenging. Knowing how best to approach an issue that concerns you or how to ask for more information or support can be difficult to navigate. But with some preparation and planning, you can be your own advocate.
What is self-advocacy?
Have you ever spoken up when something has affected you? Perhaps you’ve stood up for yourself when you felt like you weren’t being listened to? Or maybe you’ve asked for more information or support when you needed it? Then you have been your own advocate.
Self-advocacy is about standing up for yourself and your rights and asking for what you want and need. Often, that means being open about how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking.
But self-advocacy does not mean that you have do to everything yourself. It just means you’re in the driver’s seat and making the choices.
When might you self-advocate?
There are lots of situations where you might decide to advocate for yourself.
- Work: for example, negotiating a salary increase or a change in your role with an employer.
- School: for example, requesting extra time to complete an assignment if you’ve have been unwell.
- CF Clinic: for example, providing input into your treatment plan so it reflects your priorities and needs.
- Home: for example, negotiating a curfew, or even health and treatment plan priorities, with parents.
- Centrelink: for example, explaining your situation and needs.
- When you feel like you’re not being listened to or supported.
- When making a complaint.
Tips for self-advocacy:
If you’re new to self-advocacy, or you’re just not feeling confident in your ability to speak up there are a few things you can do to help you feel more comfortable and ready to advocate for yourself.
- Think about what the issue is. Is there a specific problem that is troubling you? Or an obstacle that you need help with? Once you’ve identified what the issue is, think about what you would like to see change.
- At this point, you could consider speaking with others in your community about the issue. Maybe you’re not the only one feeling that way or maybe someone else has been through a similar situation and has some advice.
- Ask for help. Speak with a friend, a family member—someone you trust who can offer you advice or support if you need.
- Think about how you would like to raise the issue: in person, via phone or by email or letter. Think about your skills here. If you’re not a great public speaker but you have a way with words, an email or a letter might be your best bet. If you feel more confident on the phone than in person, go for a phone call.
- Before you get to the call, email or in-person meeting, take some time to write down the things that are most important. What are the points that you want to raise? Why is this important to you? And how has it affected you? You can use these notes to help you stay on track.
- If you’ll be jumping on the phone or chatting in person, it’s worth practicing what you’re planning to say. You could ask a friend or family member to help with this practice.
- During your meeting or phone call, listen carefully to what the person you’re talking with is saying. If you’re unsure about anything, ask questions. At the end of the meeting, repeat back the conclusion or decision you come to, so everyone is on the same page.
- It can be useful to take notes. If you can’t do this in the meeting, do it as soon as possible after. You could consider asking someone to come along to do this so you can concentrate on the conversation.
Supporting yourself to be your own advocate
Self-advocacy can be challenging and exhausting. So, it’s important to take care of yourself throughout and afterwards too. Talk to someone you trust about what you’re thinking and feeling. If you need to, take some time out to rest.
Supporting yourself can involve practicing self-care. Broadly, self-care is a term used to describe the activities that you do for yourself to stay emotionally, mentally and physically well. Those activities look different for everyone.
Some self-care activities could include:
- Getting enough sleep
- Spending time with family or friends
- Pursuing hobbies or activities that you enjoy
Where can you find support for self-advocacy?
Self-advocacy doesn’t mean going it alone or that you can’t ask for help. In fact, when you are advocating for yourself, it’s likely that you will need some support. Perhaps someone you can talk to or to ask for advice.
You could reach out to:
- A volunteer or worker you trust at a service or organisation
- Advocacy organisations
Resources for self-advocacy
Cystic Fibrosis Community Care
Disability Advocacy Finder
The Disability Advocacy Finder is a tool from the Department of Social Services (DSS) that lists the contact details and locations of disability advocacy agencies. Type in your area code to find disability advocacy services in your area