Advocating for yourself is a natural part of adulthood. Expecting, asking, and even demanding more, is something we should all feel comfortable with.
Advocating for yourself means setting boundaries and expectations, ensuring others understand what you require of them and communicating the importance of all of this. Self-advocacy applies to every aspect of your life, especially in spaces of education, healthcare and your professional life.
For Women of Colour, learning how to confidently advocate for yourself is critical to your overall happiness and well-being.
In place of education, healthcare and in our careers, we are often stifled. It takes us longer to reach real career advancement, longer to get the medical support we require and more assistance in places of education.
The barriers we face are frustrating and disheartening. Having to constantly jump through hoops and still not be seen, understood or promoted is discouraging and tiresome. There is so much that we deserve, and without reminding others of this, it can become impossible to overcome.
Through self-advocacy, you put yourself first and ensure that you are heard and understood. It is so important that we implement steps to help us advocate for ourselves without feeling overwhelmed or undeserving.
Know your worth and treat yourself accordingly!
It is incredibly important that you set the tone of how you are treated. You must know your worth and act accordingly. In doing so, it will ensure that others do too. We all deserve respect and kindness and to be given grace and understanding. By understanding your worth, you honour yourself and constantly ensure you don’t accept less than you deserve.
Use your voice!
As uncomfortable as it may be, using your voice to speak up is the only way to make sure you get what you want and need. Regardless of the situation, you should ensure that others know and understand what you expect and require. Moreover, you should always strive to correct people where necessary.
When planning to speak up to tackle an uncomfortable situation, there are ways this can be made less daunting and overwhelming. Firstly, if you think you might struggle to advocate for yourself, bring a trusted friend or colleague along. When speaking up, take the time you require to express yourself, bring notes along and ask questions. Moreover, ask for a timeline to ensure that your case is dealt with promptly.
As uncomfortable as it may be to speak out, it is important to consider that there will be no change unless people first understand that there is an issue.
Find, or become a mentor!
Being the first or only WoC in any space can be more daunting than anything. Often we are made to feel like pioneers, but no one talks about how uncomfortable and lonely it can be being the only WoC in a space. Seeing someone that you can identify with in a position of power or privilege is truly powerful. Therefore if you are in a position of power and have a wealth of knowledge and understanding, why not consider becoming a mentor?
As a mentor, you can offer advice, feedback, guidance and kindness in a traditionally cruel sector.
On the other side of this, if you have newly entered a specific sector, we implore you to find a mentor. A mentor that looks like you or has similar experiences to you, can be a breath of fresh air in a stifling space.
A mentor can become your go-to person for professional guidance, advice and feedback. Moreover, if you are ever struggling, a mentor can support and assist in helping you advocate for yourself.
Don’t let things slide!
Our experiences across sectors are often riddled with microaggressions, biases and sometimes out and out racism. Being used to experiencing such things, we can often become hardened to them and can sometimes not see the seriousness of these situations.
Therefore we implore you to not let things slide! From the first sign of discrimination or bias you see, we encourage you to address it. Whether it is choosing to discuss the situation with the person directly, setting up a more formal meeting, or if necessary, taking legal action, speaking up is necessary against all injustice.
You mustn’t make excuses for other people and their behaviours or try to rationalise their actions.
By not letting things slide, you advocate for yourself and make it clear what behaviour you will tolerate.
Not letting things slide goes hand in hand with self-advocacy as it ensures people understand what you expect and will accept.
As WoC, we have to navigate systems that chose to not see or understand us. Therefore it is so important that you fight to set the standard of treatment you will accept.
We cannot stress the importance of asking for more, albeit demanding more. You should always be asking for more in both your personal and professional life.
Do not just accept the mediocrity that the world expects you to.