How to advocate for yourself without sacrificing your energy
Expert Ariane Hunter explains self-advocacy—and why effectively speaking up for yourself also means managing your energy.
The art of self-advocacy is learned over time, but for Black people, I think the time to figure it out shows up sooner than most. You’ll find a variety of definitions for self-advocacy, but the one I like best for us is from the coaching platform BetterUp. It describes self-advocacy as “the ability to speak up on your behalf effectively.” Simple and straightforward, with the most important word at the end of the sentence: Effectively. No one is interested in wasting their time picking battles they know they can’t win (okay, maybe some of us like being petty), but for real—we want change. We want our needs understood and addressed. That’s why we have to speak up.
So how can we do this effectively? I turned to Ariane Hunter, a speaker, author, and career equity consultant for Black women, for some pointers. She says we should prioritize our energy before we speak up.
“Oftentimes, when we have to decide whether we’re going to address this problematic thing that happened or if we’re gonna speak up and then cause a bigger thing,” Hunter said.
She advises we ask ourselves, how much is worth your energy?
“In that moment, it’s not often an easy question to answer. But really check in with yourself in terms of, is this gonna deplete my energy?” said Hunter. “Because at the end of the day, we really have to preserve our mental health and not fight every fire,” she said.
Hunter’s definition of self-advocacy places emphasis on the first part of the word: self. It springs from a place of knowing yourself.
“[Think] about energy and things like that, protecting your energy, knowing your strengths, knowing your limits, having your boundaries, knowing what are the tools and resources and support that you need in order to do your best work and advocating for that. Advocate on your behalf,” she said.
Hunter reminds us to prioritize our most precious resources—our time, our mental health, and our energy. That may mean one week we’re navigating through an issue without calling a meeting and the next week speaking up because a boundary was crossed and we’ve got time (and energy) today. Either way, we’re centering our needs. If we don’t, who will?
Hunter says self-advocacy extends beyond the office and into your home, as well. Hear more of our conversation on this week’s episode of ‘The Reset with Coach Tish,’ above.
Letisha Bereola is a life coach who helps ambitious women overcome burnout and reach their career goals so they feel great at work and happy at home. She’s a former Emmy-nominated TV news anchor, Podcast host of AUDACITY and speaker. Learn more: www.coachtish.co.
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