As a teacher, you advocate for your students on a daily basis. But do you give the same care and attention to your own needs? Are you comfortable giving a voice to your truth? Not sure? Ask yourself this: Do you have a hard time saying “no” even when you’d rather get a root canal than do what’s been requested of you? Do you put other people’s needs above your own? If you’re like most people, the answer is a bold and all caps YES. And it’s time to learn the wonders of self-advocacy.
Self-advocacy is a super simple concept. You just advocate for yourself. Easy right? Not quite, or you would be dropping “no” bombs left and right, creating healthy boundaries with ease, prioritizing self-care above all else…you get the gist. Self-advocacy is really freaking hard for so many people. But for every bit as tricky as it can be to practice, it’s twice as beneficial. That’s a fact.
Learning to self-advocate will change your life. So, let’s get down to brass tacks and begin to shift the way we think about all this. Here are three mantras to repeat to yourself daily.
Make no mistake — being kind and doing nice things for people out of love is 100% awesome all of the time. But people-pleasing is different. It’s being bullied by your own guilt and doing things you don’t even want to do at your own expense. Nothing good comes of that. Here’s what does come of it: stress, anxiety, exhaustion, burnout, dread…ALL the bad feelings. You trap yourself into this miserable world where you’re giving for the wrong reasons and giving to a point of self-destruction. And the worst part is? You might not even see it happening until you’re at a breaking point.
Let that sink in for a quick minute. Your selfless spirit won’t like it, but it’s going to need to learn to live with it because it’s the truth. If you are truly concerned with helping others and being there for the people in your life and being a giver rather than a taker, then the first rule of thumb is to start by making sure you are mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy first. You can’t give from an empty vessel. Your own tank needs to be filled before you can share any of that awesome with anyone else.
In fact, it’s necessary. So many of us walk around believing that in order to kick butt at life we have to be tough as nails, capable and resourceful, and uber-independent. We don’t want to be seen as weak. We’re afraid of appearing to fail. The thing is though, all that doesn’t make us better at life. It makes us unhappier and burdened, and honestly? A little bit fraudulent. EVERYONE needs help sometimes. And there is zero shame in admitting it. Ask for help. Whenever you need it. You will be surprised at how freeing it is.
Write these mantras down on some sticky notes and put them on your bathroom mirror. Say them in the morning and before bed. Stick them to your car dashboard or inside your laptop so when you open it you see them. They’re simple but significant reminders of a life-changing skill.
It can take a while to break out of our old habits and ways of thinking. But this is one that is worth the effort. Taking care of you is not selfish. It is essential. You absolutely need to stand up for what you need — nobody else is going to do it for you!