How To Advocate for Yourself
I strongly believe that people, places, and experiences come into your life at the exact moment when you need them the most. They bring with them lessons and joys and possibilities that were not present before. Sometimes, that means things are going to get sticky. If it is something we've never experienced before, if it is a way of being or a way of seeing the world that is foreign to us, the newness can feel confrontational. New York is a place of constant sticky-ness. What do you stand for? What are you willing to do to get what you want? How far is too far? Should you succumb to the pressure or continue to fight for what you know to be true? I consider myself incredibly lucky because if there is one thing that New York has taught me, it is how to advocate for myself. It's a necessity here. Everyone believes so passionately in what they do. Everyone is so driven. Everyone has their own agenda and if you don't speak up, if you don't show up, if you don't stand in your truth and do the things you need to do to make sure you are okay, you will be swallowed alive.
I moved here when I was 22. I entered the city with bright-eyed enthusiasm, probably a little too much naivety, and quickly learned that this place could smother me if I let it. New York is a very hard place to live. It is unforgiving in the ways that it demands only excellence in whatever it is you choose to pursue. People here are the best at what they do. Most of them can function on four hours of sleep after a rager. I still don't know how that's possible. I am constantly impressed by the way people keep going every single day no matter what challenges are thrown their way. When you live in a place of constant and unrelenting competition, the circumstances force you to learn how to advocate for yourself and your worth.
Know your worth. When most people think about worth, there is still an edge of comparison to it. This is the first concept we have to restructure. Your worth is not linked to the worth or value of someone else. Another person who is seen as valuable is not a deterrent to your own value. Your worth is inherent. What you have to offer is unique. Personally, I want to surround myself with people who are leading the way. I want my tribe, my squad, my team, to be humans who can challenge each other to grow in a positive direction. Those people are going to sparkle. Their magic will be contagious. Their shine does not reduce my shine. So, when you advocate for yourself, this process is not about tearing other people down to build yourself up. It is purely stating your worth, the things you know to be true about yourself, and always moving from a place of integrity and compassion.
Tell yourself the truth. In a wealth of circumstances that came to a climax this year, I finally learned the lesson of advocating for myself on a deeply personal level. That meant encountering all of these scripts in my own head that said my feelings and thought were not worth sharing. How uncomfortable is it to tell people how you really feel and what you really want? Very. It is very uncomfortable. If you can't admit those deep truths to yourself though, the chances of getting them out to other people are very slim. In this journey of being honest with yourself, you've got to make an effort to encounter the way you see yourself, the stories you tell yourself, and begin to separate what is your true identity from the identity that others will prescribe you. This has been the hardest for me recently. I've listenied to all the words other people say about me and believe them to be true. Some people have photographic memory. I have that but for sound (aural-graphic memory?). So those words are on replay in my head all day long. When I'm spiraling, sinking under the weight and their expectations, I write all of those things down. And then, I write down the things I feel in my gut about what I want, who I am, how I show up. Auditory girl over here actually says the ladder out loud so that those words are the ones ringing in my ears. My truth. Not someone else's.
Speak up and let go. You have control over your actions, your words, your reactions. So many times, especially recently, I have advocated for myself, my heart, my basic needs, and found myself so tightly clinging to what I thought the outcome should be. Here's the truth: the outcome you have planned in your head is not the only way things could roll out. You don't get to decide how other people respond to what you say or do. Advocating for yourself takes courage in many different ways. By far the most challenging form is having the courage to let go of your expectations. You state your case with compassion. You say what you need to say. And that’s it. If things don’t go your way, it’s okay. Not everything will. More importantly, do you have your own back? Are you standing with integrity? If yes, that’s all you need to do. You’ve done your part. The other person/organization/community also needs to take care of itself. What they believe is advocating for themselves might not align with what you believe it to be. In the yoga practice we call is aprarigraha (non-attachment). Let go of how you want things to end up. Hold on to what you know you need to do for you.
I look back on all of the times that I have held myself back because I didn't think I was worth fighting for; I look back on all the times I didn't take the risk or say how I feel or use the voice that I was gifted. I hope that I am the last generation of young women who were trained from a very young age to be smaller, to speak softer, to hide under the pretense of civility, to sacrifice everything for another person, to acquiesce because it is the easier, though probably more damaging, path. If you’ve spent your entire life acquiescing, the moment you advocate for yourself, some might see you as aggressive. Don’t let their fear of your personal power deter you from standing in your truth. Know your worth. Tell yourself your truth. Speak up, speak out, and let go.