It might be an expression that’s been around for years, but I’ve just woken up to what a great one expression it is: self-advocacy.
It’s similar in meaning to self-care. But ‘self-care activist and mentor’, Christy Tending says it’s just the beginning. In her blog post, she says:
The art of self-advocacy means boldly declaring what we need in order to feel whole and well and like ourselves.
I was reminded of how advocating for ourselves can be a life or death matter when I read the news yesterday. A Taree gynaecologist has been suspended from practising medicine for three years because of misconduct. He is currently under investigation for performing unnecessary and harmful surgeries on women, as far back as 1996. Complaints were lodged about his behaviour across the four hospitals in which he worked. But the women operated on and the medical staff were ignored and their complaints dismissed.
Hopefully, the culture of ignoring patients, nurses and less senior doctors who complain about malpractice is coming to an end. This will be helped to the degree we advocate for ourselves in all arenas, but perhaps especially where medical treatment is involved.
Christy Tending, I’m sure, is speaking from her own experience when she says:
[Self-advocacy] means putting on our grown-up pants and doing what is necessary on our own behalf: like having those uncomfortable (yet honest) conversations, stating clear boundaries, and no longer tolerating what is not healthy for us. This isn’t something many of us are taught.
It can feel frightening to say, “This isn’t working.” Or, “I’m not okay.” To say that out loud can feel like a major leap. I know it can feel scary to declare what we truly need, define what is personally sacred, and not settle for what looks good from the outside.
It feels like drawing a line in the sand. Once we do that, there’s no going back.