To advocate is to: to speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument ; recommend publicly; a person who pleads the cause of another in the court of law.
If there is one thing I’ve learned from being a master’s social work student, it would be the importance of advocating for oneself. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve thought long and hard about this topic and how I wanted to present my thoughts in a blog, hopefully I can convey the importance of advocating for onself so that other people can start doing it for themselves.
Social workers, in general, are taught to advocate for the clients that they work with which means that we are supposed to be in favor of the client no matter what the situation may be. This can prove to be difficult at times especially in the field of child welfare when social workers, often times, start off advocating for their clients but sometimes have to switch sides when the time comes to prove to the court why said parent(s) should not get their children back. So far, I haven’t had any problems advocating for the clients I work with, but I have had some difficulties advocating for myself until recently.
Up until recently, I had issues voicing my opinions and feelings when I thought that how I felt would affect the person I was telling my feelings to in a negative way. I do not have an assertive personality and I’m not blunt. I care about how I treat other people, what I say to others and how it affects them and it bothers me greatly when I feel like I’ve upset someone even if I was just giving my honest opinion. Because of this, it has allowed others to take the “spotlight” if you will in certain situations because I’m easily pushed out of the way, it’s allowed others to take advantage of me because I don’t want to hurt their feelings by saying no, and it’s allowed for others to take control of things in my life that have not a darn thing to do with them.
For instance, I’m a graduate student getting my Masters in Social Work and this semester I cam completing my foundation practicum. Because I work full-time, I have opted to attend graduate school part-time and do my first practicum at my place of employment, so I wouldn’t have to quit and be stressed out about finances. Now one would think that doing a practicum, which is logging hours worked in a different position than what I currently do to learn other areas of the social work field, would be amazing because I get to stay at my job and log hours AND get paid for it. It has been a nice thing, however its had its downfalls as well. Enter stage left: others controlling my practicum. Up until last week, I had allowed a co-worker and fellow student in the same program as me control what I was doing in my practicum, how I was completing my hours and allowing her to make me feel like I wasn’t doing enough. This made me stress out to the point that I ended up in my supervisors office crying because I could not handle it anymore but was too afraid (I suppose I was afraid) to say anything to stand up for myself and take control. After discussing my issues with my supervisor, I emailed my field instructor (the supervisor who supervises my practicum duties) and explained how I felt about me allowing others to delegate the tasks I’ve completed or not completed in my practicum, and feeling obligated to complete things that I’ve heard about through the grapevine.
I CC’d my supervisor on the email and the response I got from her made me feel 10x better; she simply replied with “WAY TO GO, GREAT JOB ADVOCATING FOR YOURSELF!” The email response I got from my field instructor also made me feel better as she applauded me for voicing my concerns and clearing the air. She also told the field liaison (individual from the university that steps in when issues arise in practicum) during a site visit that she was impressed with me because I was able to speak up and advocate for what I wanted. The point is is that I’ve been taught to advocate for the cause and case of others and have forgotten myself in the mix. While, my personality may have something to do with it I realize that I cannot continue to live my life allowing others to take control of it through their actions and words because I’m too afraid to stand up and plead my case and cause. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and take control of what is rightfully yours. It may hurt others feeling in the process, but they’ll get over it and if they don’t it’s still not worth it for you to continue to stress out whatever the issue may be. Take control, advocate for yourself!