The Power of Self-Advocating

written by Amber Fuller, MA, LMFT and owner of Fuller Living

I’m about to get incredibly vulnerable and personal. I’m not sure if it’s wanted or desired, but its necessary. If one isn’t interested in reading about the inner-workings of my life, then carry on.

About three years ago I chose to try out EMDR. EMDR is a form of therapy that is effective and has incredible results. In doing this form of therapy, I had two themes that were highlighted that I needed to grow in and that I have a hard time with. They were not being afraid to “self-advocate” as well as “allowing myself to feel crappy about the things that have happened to me for more than just two seconds”. I’ve done significant amounts of work on these two areas.

About a week ago something happened. My husband was talking to his therapy group and the somebody in the group had said something that was incredibly disrespectful towards me and really hurtful. It was gossip, bad practice, and to be completely honest, wreckless. It felt like he had put a big old “kick me” sign on my back when I Wasn’t looking…and the whole group saw him do it.

I had a hard time with it. I cried myself to sleep several nights in a row. I knew what I needed to do but wasn’t sure if I could do it. A few days had passed. Dillon and I went grocery shopping and when we got home I found myself in my bedroom closet/my Covid office, sitting on the floor, dialing a number on my phone. A caring, kind, and empathetic lady answered. There I was. Was I going to advocate for myself? Was I brave enough to speak up and talk about what happened and what I needed?

The words came out of my mouth and before I knew it I was on the floor bawling like a baby while, Nancy, the care specialist was talking me through the horrible thing that had happened. She locked arms with me and informed me that she was “fighting for me” and knew how hard this was for me. She validated that what the leader did wasn’t okay and was incredibly wreckless and hurtful. She sat with me in my pain. She was adamant about letting me know that justice would be served and that every step that she made would be made with caution and care. She ended the call by saying this, “I know it was really hard for you to make this call. You did the right thing. This is huge growth for you. You should feel proud of yourself”.

I got off the phone and immediately felt like a huge burden had been lifted. Because I advocated for myself, the outcome of what happened didn’t really matter to me anymore, because I got what I needed. I didn’t allow a person to be wreckless towards me. I stood up for myself. I finally told a “playground bully” that their behavior was out of line and I WAS DONE with it.

If you struggle to advocate for yourself, I get it. Trust me, I REALLY get it. I promise you though that you will never regret it. I had a friend tell me once that I was a treasure; a gift. That I shouldn’t allow people to treat me like anything other than that and that if they treated me less than that then they didn’t belong in my life, or at least not within my inner circle. I’ve always battled with the part in the Bible that says “love your neighbor as you love yourself”…I’ve gotten my gold star with loving my neighbor, but all to often we, myself included, forget about loving ourselves. It’s important, and advocating is a huge way that we can love ourselves.

Here’s a few tips on how to self-advocate. Think about what the healthy way is to handle that “playground bully”:

1.Identify the problem in WRITING. Pull out your phone and open up the notepad, then start typing what the problem is that you need to advocate for yourself is.

2. Get a support system to be there for you when you finally “stand up to the playground bully”.

3. Develop your plan. What will you say? Do you need to talk to the person with whom the bully answers too? Or is the bully able to hear your concern and respect it? If not, go to their superior, otherwise you’ll be spinning in circles with them and you’ll end up more hurt than you were before you advocated for yourself.

4. Find a good time to talk to the person. Make sure you are relaxed, well rested, fed, and ready to talk.

5. Follow your script. When confronting the person, read what you’ve written down. Make sure you let them know how you’d like for them to act or do moving forward.

6. Thank the superior or the bully for their time in hearing you.

7. Document what was said and discussed after the meeting is over.

8.Process the meeting with a friend/support system.

I’m thankful that I have my own personal therapist that has walked with me through this journey of self-advocating, and not allowing others to treat me poorly. If you’re somebody that struggles with self-advocating, Fuller Living therapists would love to help you. It’s a necessary part of the healing process.

The way I felt afterwards was priceless. Self-advocating is hard, but it’s important. You may lose a friend or a family member in the process of doing it (just make sure you do it respectfully), but if they can’t respect you, then should they really be in your life to begin with? You can love them form a distance…it’s okay to do that. Remember, you are to be treated like treasure, and anything less than that is unacceptable.