The first time we were asked to act as advocates, we didn’t understand what an advocate was and, as it turned out, many of the people we contacted didn’t either (if you’re in this position, checkout our definitions of advocacy post here).
Being asked to act as an advocate is an honour, but it’s not about you or your life. It is about helping people defend their rights, have their voice heard on issues that are important to them, and to have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives
Advocacy cases take more time than you might imagine, something as simple as getting a second opinion in a healthcare setting might end up taking a few months. And because of this it’s really important that you have a self-care system in place if you don’t already. Whether that means going to see a counsellor, going to a fitness class, going out with friends
But, why? You might ask. If we already know that advocacy is hard work, then surely that is enough?
Not quite. In advocacy cases, there will be many instances where you must make do with “good enough” – this is not always easy. Remember a few paragraphs ago when we said that advocacy is not about you? Well, it isn’t. But that doesn’t mean that witnessing seemingly fixable injustices won’t bother you and it doesn’t mean that part of you will be gunning for that fixable injustice to be fixed so no other person has to go through what the person you are representing is going through (and/or the things that have led them up to this point).
In worst case scenarios, in spite of best efforts, you may lose a client/service user. While advocacy isn’t about you, the person who is an advocate, it is personal; you see people at their most vulnerable, trusting you to express & defend their basic wishes.
It requires your whole skillset (literally); You will be working between teams of people, you will need to think on your feet and be willing to see everyone as human – even if they are being oppositional. Often, the people who are being oppositional are being that way because they see you, the advocate, as a critic and/or a timewaster. No-one wants to be told that they haven’t done the right thing (and this speaks to a level of priviledge that people who need an advocate have not had access to), but we must all remember to be open to learning about one another and encourage others to do the same.
Self-Care is the constant repetition of many tiny habits, which together soothe you and make sure you’re at your optimum—emotionally, physically, and mentally. What are your daily self-care habits?
If you find that your regular self-care habits aren’t enough, then it is also wise to put together an emergency self-care kit. What would you put in there?
Check back next week for the next post in our advocacy series!
Have a great day!