It's been awhile since I posted here. I've been learning about advocacy and self-advocacy. 

Advocate In preparing for a talk in Houston next week for the Juvenile Arthritis annual conference, I looked up the definition of "advocate." (The title of my talk is "Advocacy: Finding Your Voice." Contact me if you are in Houston and you want to meet for drinks while I'm in town.)  Photo by Leonid Mamchenkov.

Here's what Webster's says about advocates:

1. one that pleads the cause of another
2. one that defends or maintains a cause or proposal
3. one that supports or promotes the interests of another

As a coach, I sometimes play the role of an advocate for the client. One way of being an advocate is crafting a confidentiality agreement between a client and the person who is hiring me (e.g., a manager, parent, or even son/daughter) so that the client has as much freedom to express himself during the coaching, without worries that it will get back to a third party. 

Eggs with faces But more often, I'm an advocate for the client by helping their best self to emerge. People have many "selves," not all of which are helpful in every situation. In fact, many of us have a self that tells us we are not good enough, don't have permission to do what brings us joy, aren't entitled to things that we would easily accord our spouse or favorite pet, and basically criticizes our every move.  I'm learning there's a name for this: Negative Ego. (Many thanks to Keri Kuerbis Lehman for deepening my understanding of this concept.) Photo by hi, i'm sammmm

Clients need an advocate when their Negative Ego starts running the show. 

Even better than being an advocate is helping clients to develop self-advocacy. It's the difference between "giving fish" and "teaching to fish."  I can be there during a coaching session to beat back someone's Negative Ego. But the client is much more empowered when she can do it for herself.

I'm working on this for myself. I was recently coached at a time when my Negative Ego was screaming: "You don't have time to waste!  Keep working or you'll never get it all done!  Forget about that bike ride on Sundays with Evelyn. I'll be sure to make you pay for the afternoon you took off last Friday." And on and on….you know those voices, right?

Peaceful My coach simply said, "You can have it any way you want." She was telling me that my sense of urgency was an illusion.  Which made me think about, "What would happen if I don't get X, Y, and Z done by next month?"  The consequences didn't seem so bad. And it made my life not just a whole lot easier, but more manageable and sane.  That was advocacy. Photo by Matter=Energy.

Self-advocacy is hearing the voice that doesn't serve me, and saying, "It's a lie! It's a f—ing lie!" Now that would be a bit harder. But it's where I want to go and where I want my clients to go. 

How good are you at self-advocacy? And how do you celebrate when you are successful at self-advocacy? 

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  1. Octav Druta on July 6, 2009 at 7:22 am

    One doesn’t need self-advocacy if he’s completely authentic. Pursuing complete authenticity is a continuous battle with your own fears.

    When you asked yourself “What would happen if I don’t get X, Y, and Z done by next month?” you actually defined your fear. “The consequences didn’t seem so bad” so fear was gone.

    Great post!

  2. Carol Ross on July 21, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Thanks, Octav, for your comments, especially the point about being completely authentic. I think of authenticity coming from one’s best self. Unfortunately, it’s hard to bring that to the forefront all the time! Fear (and the Negative Ego that is a manifestation of fear) seems to be a natural part of being human.

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