Self-Advocacy is the act of advocating for yourself and your rights – speaking up for and protecting yourself (with or without the help of others).
Self Advocacy Steps: Identify something you need to change in your life. Do your homework – is this a possible discrimination issue? What are your civil rights on this particular issue? Decide if you need assistance from others to advocate for this change (contact these people to see if they are able to assist you). Get input from people who know “the system” (employment, housing, ADA, etc.). Map out your game plan. Start working toward your goal.
Tips: Be aggressive yet realistic – change can take time! “Know your stuff” knowing your rights is a must. If you are defending your rights, it will be a different battle than if you are trying to change the system and the laws! Make sure you have a strong team – surround yourself with people who are strong advocates with experience dealing with situations like yours. Be involved in the process – self-advocacy means that you are part of it – Don’t expect people to do all of the work for you, you be the leader and let them assist you.
Self-Help is the act of helping or improving yourself. You may get suggestions and encouragement from others but you do the action steps.
Self-Help steps: Identify something you want to change about your life. Decide how to go about making the change. Decide if you need assistance from friends or family to accomplish the change(s) – Surrounding yourself with supportive people will enhance your chances for success. Map out what steps are necessary to accomplish this goal – be sure to set realistic goals for yourself – Being too aggressive will become discouraging and you will likely give up. Start working toward your goal.
Tips: Decide on a realistic plan – it takes time to make lifelong changes! Work consistently on your developed plan – realize that perfection is not the goal, change is! Having a strong support network of friends and family can be a source of great encouragement!
The difference between self-advocacy and self-help:
Self-Help involves something that you can change on your own, working with the support of family or friends. Self-advocacy requires that you “fight” (advocate) for something (such as your right to a reasonable accommodation at your place of employment).