Thursday, December 17, 2020

Being Your Own Best Advocate

 2020 is now nearing an end, and I'm pretty sure most of us are happy to see it go. After losing several friends, including a very close one, I found myself unable to do much of anything for a while, including writing. I needed to use that time to process everything (still processing in fact), regroup, and start over. I also had to learn to set boundaries with others, and focus on myself. I've always been avoidant on self focus; in my mind I tied that up with narcissism, which is the very opposite of how I want to run my life. I've known my share of narcissists, and once I figured it out I couldn't run away fast enough. However, when I took the time to understand the importance of self-advocacy and care, I no longer lumped it in with narcissism, and began to think of it as laying a healthy foundation for improvement. After all, can't we help others more when we, ourselves, have a healthy foundation/boundaries/outlook? 


I had a conversation with a friend a while back, and she gave me the best advice. She told me that you have to be your own best advocate, in sports, in your career, and in life in general. "No one will be a better advocate for yourself than you.", she told me. The first time I began to fully practice self-advocacy was almost two years ago, when I began a lengthy job search out-of-state. In short, I had to sell myself. I had to believe that what I brought to the table was worthy, and I had to not be shy in asking for what I felt I deserved (NOT to be mistaken for arrogance or cockiness). In the end, that advocacy and confidence paid off. 

While I haven't been face to face with it in sports, I recognize it as something that eventually has to be done. Self-advocacy includes being true to yourself. Do you know what you're looking for in a team? They're all very different. Don't be shy in saying no and waiting for the right fit. Do you want to represent or use a certain brand? Find a team that allows this, or kindly pass. Do you want a smaller or a larger team? Do you want a forced "family" type feel, or are you happier with more space and individuality? Keep true to that, and if, along the way, you learn that something isn't for you, learn from it and look for something different next season. Self-advocacy starts with understanding your own wants and needs, and how you can best help others. When I started back with BMX, I had no idea what I was looking for, team support included. As I progress, I learn more and more about what I ultimately want, and will be pursuing that as well. 


Years back, a man once told me, "I wanted to go to college, but someone told me I wouldn't be good at it, so I didn't go." During our discussion I told him that I never let anyone dictate what I can and can't do with my life, and I've heard it all. He looked surprised, like this was something he hadn't thought of. He never once thought to question that or push on with his goals. He let someone else dictate his life and regretted it years later. You know yourself better than anyone else, so why would you listen to anyone tell you what you and and can't do? Go for what you want. You don't have the experience? Find a way to get it. Consider the source of any advice and decide for yourself weather to take it or not. 

Being your own advocate definitely isn't the easiest thing to accomplish, but since the returns on it are in your own best interest, it's a worthy goal. If you're afraid to ask for what you want, you'll never get it.