Ch 12: Self Advocacy

Step 1: Find Those Who Believe You

A young relative recently had the experience of being cared for by someone who didn’t believe him. He was physically safe at every point, but felt emotionally distressed at regular intervals. When I debriefed with him, I shared one of the simplest pieces that have made all the difference in my own life:

Choose people who believe you.

Granted, we get the relatives we get, and when we’re young we’re stuck with at least some of them. We can enjoy these ones for the good they have to share, and take the opportunity to learn about who we are, how we are similar to and different from others, what our needs are, and so on.

As adults, though, we get to choose. A boyfriend. An accountant. A spouse. A doctor. A close friend. A professor. A therapist. A mentor. A minister. It is critically important that each of these be people who believe us! Anyone whose life has been so sheltered or mainstream that they cannot accept the validity of a different experience cannot support us in any valuable way. Likewise, anyone who is in denial, such that they cannot “hear” another’s real experience is useless to us at best, and quite possibly dangerous for us.

In this crazy world, it is important that we surround ourselves with people who accept and celebrate us. Who listen well, deeply and without distractibility. Who honour our love language, not only their own. Who hear and sense our degree of pain when we finally manage to tell that particular trauma story. Who will advocate for us when we have no voice left. Who believe that we are sensitive to the typical dose of medication, and sort out an appropriate one. Who encourage us to say what is true for us, even when it differs from what is true for them.

Selecting a support person who believes you is the very first step in self-advocacy.

This week, consider: Who are 1-3 people who believe you? Which additional person in the world might also be one?

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9 thoughts on “Step 1: Find Those Who Believe You

  1. I really like your post, Ms Madriga!

    I very much agree with you about finding people who believe you and choosing them to be part of the support team.

    I see a counsellor and it is an expensive thing for me to do. I didn’t want to waste any time with someone who would not believe me, so during the first appointment I said “I am going to say all the things that other people say are crazy, but that I know to be true.” And then I just went on and on – said them all one after the other, keeping a close watch on him to see if there were any moments when his eyes glazed over or he got a look that I would interpret as non-believing (aka judging.) How wonderful for me that he did not. He believed what I said. I have made huge strides towards my goals with his help. And since I laid it all out in the beginning, I never have to worry that some new thing I will reveal will be the thing he can’t believe.

    I have a friend who believes me. And I would say, believes in me. Trusts me. So that even if she has never had the same experience, she believes it when I say something is true for me. I believe her the same way. It is hard to convey with words how very powerful that is in a friendship.

    Actually, your post has instigated a long line of memories that are now marching through my head of people who have believed me in pivotal moments, and the difference that made to me. The minister who was seeming like she might argue that my marriage shouldn’t end, but when I looked her in the eye and said that it really was over, she got it. She believed me. Phew.

    Many more memories. I know I have been lucky! And there are probably many times when I wasn’t believed, but today I think I will just keep remembering all these moments of support and love. 🙂

    You wrote: “… it is important that we surround ourselves with people who accept and celebrate us. Who listen well, deeply and without distractibility. Who honour our love language, not only their own. Who hear and sense our degree of pain when we finally manage to tell that particular trauma story. Who will advocate for us when we have no voice left. Who believe that we are sensitive to the typical dose of medication, and sort out an appropriate one. Who encourage us to say what is true for us, even when it differs from what is true for them.”

    And that is my ideal for the kind of friend I want to be. The kind of partner I want to be. The kind of parent and daughter and sister and aunt. I know someone who is like that. She is someone I emulate as much as possible.

    Gosh, I feel like I could go on and on! But I just want you to know how wonderfully this post opened up the floodgates of wonderful memories.

    Thank you. 🙂

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    1. Wonderful, Betty Simpson!

      I really enjoyed reading all your examples and happy experiences of this! I’m glad this post brought those to the surface of your memory, and that you have such yummy believers in your life right now.

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  2. Excellent post Joon.

    I had to come to this conclusion as well and it was pretty difficult. It meant distancing myself from my family of origin and the process was long, painful and stressful. But in the end, the right thing to do. I now find myself being very careful about the people I allow into my life, maybe too careful, bordering on alienation. Your post gave me something to think about: the benefits of having good people in our lives.

    Sending you a virtual hug (((((Joon)))))

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    1. Darcy, what a great point! Like you, I’ve found that separation or distance is sometimes necessary. But yes, it’s equally important that we also bring awesome people IN! I mean, I know you’re saying I just said that, lol, but I feel like you reframed it a bit, and in a way that’s really helpful.

      You are one such Awesome Person in my life. Thanks for that!

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  3. Ditto – back at ya!

    I’ve actually been thinking about setting up an appt with my therapist to talk about the whole people/trust issue. But, I also feel an internal resistance to letting people in. It feels so safe and cozy (but sometimes lonely) to be self-sufficient and independent. Letting people in feels scary.

    Maybe a slow approach would be good – volunteering at my local animal shelter, the school down the street, etc… Being with people, but also feeling like I have some boundaries around me. It’s funny, typing that made me realize how comforting the idea of physical/psychological boundaries feels right now.

    I feel a strong need to self-protect. Not sure if it’s a positive/helpful thing or not.

    Are you ready for Thanksgiving? 🙂

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    1. I thought of your question yesterday when I was pacing a happy room with relief, chanting, “Oh, thank goodness for…” Yes, I am ready to live in alignment with what I feel most grateful for!

      Darcy, you sound a lot like me! I feel a strong need to self-protect (read: things that don’t work well if sending book into world). In some ways, I’m very private. In other ways, I’m wildly open.

      I need people, but generally “two hours out of every twenty-four.” What works best for me is (a) therapy, and (b) thoughtful or silent groups (hyper-responsible discussion circles, meditation, dance, etc).

      Are you into MBTI? (Have I already asked you that elsewhere?)

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      1. Yes, I’ve done the MBTI and it’s a bit weird. I have my ‘private self’ and my ‘public self’ that I developed in response to having to be an adult at a young age. And they’re the opposite of each other. It’s a bit like having a split personality! 🙂 Not terrible, because the public self has helped me in many ways, but definitely something to integrate. I’m working on it, but it’s slow going.

        I’m working on developing my Inner Warrior right and it’s pretty awesome!

        So glad to hear that you are back in your cozy home and savoring the life you’ve hand-crafted for yourself. Enjoy!

        p.s. I too enjoy meditation – especially the guided imagery.

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