As someone who has spent the better half of the last decade advocating for others as a survivor of domestic violence who helps women leave their abusers, people often look at me like I’m a hero. But as much as I tell people they are their own best advocate, many women tend to diminish their own strength and view their ability to stand up for themselves as being bossy, demanding, selfish, or downright bitchy.
Does anyone else think this is insane? Why do we as women find it so hard to do what’s best for ourselves?
In a society that ranks women against one another based on pleasantries and likeability, we often minimize the importance of speaking up for ourselves. This, in my own opinion, is a large part of the problem women face in most situations, and one we *must* begin recognizing and reforming, especially when it comes to reproductive medicine, our fertility, and our relationships with the doctors who are trying to help us build our families.
When I first began trying to conceive with a Reproductive Endocrinologist I sat across the desk from my doctor with a printed blog post that contained well over 30 questions to ask a potential doctor before signing paperwork. I listened to him read through my test results, I looked to my husband to be the more rational of the two of us (I tend to be less levelheaded than him in general), and I wasted four perfectly good pages of paper and ink, simply because I was too afraid to ask him anything. I wanted our first impression to be good. I wanted him to like me, to be invested in getting me knocked up, and didn’t want him to feel bombarded or overwhelmed by my need for preparedness.
I could write a novel about all of the things I did wrong in the beginning, but what I think is more important is telling you about the things that helped me learn to advocate for myself and how you can also begin advocating for yourself from the get-go.
No, this is not a take-action list of the five things you can do today. Instead, it’s a list of mindset shifts and every-day strategies I used to help myself become a better advocate for myself no matter where or when the need arose:
I stopped worrying about inconveniencing others.
Instead of worrying about how my needs impacted or inconvenienced others, I came to realize that if what I was asking was inappropriate or insignificant, they would tell me.
Being an inconvenience never happened, by the way, and I was never considered a pain in the ass, either. By simply trusting that other people would stand up for themselves when and if I was asking for too much, I got exactly what I needed. I learned that what I thought was burdensome to someone else was actually quite liberating for me.
I also realized that people don’t know how they can help you if you don’t ask for what you need. A lot of times people are waiting for you to vocalize what it is you want, and if you don’t, they just keep on waiting.
I asked myself how I would react to a friend who wanted the same thing.
When fear crept in, or if I was unsure if what I wanted was actually necessary, I asked myself how I’d react to a friend who wanted the same thing.
Nine times out of ten I had to logic myself into advocacy. If a friend wanted to ask her doctor about a specific type of testing or the medicine dosage, I would have cheered her on with fervor. If I knew this was the case, I found the courage to ask for what I needed. Because if my friend deserved the best care or practice, so did I.
As you’re preparing for your next appointment or consultation, run through the things you want to ask. Then pretend your friend is asking for those things from their doctor (who they are paying) and see if you still think your wishes are unreasonable. I bet you won’t.
I started implementing grounding techniques.
Maybe your anxiety or fear of speaking up for yourself isn’t this severe, but I used to be such a people-pleaser, especially after leaving my abusive ex-boyfriend, that the thought of having a differing opinion and risk a negative reaction made me queasy. I had to learn to face that fear head-on (or become a doormat).
I’m not saying this to be crude, but speaking up for myself literally gave me diarrhea and sent me into a shame spiral. That is not exactly a stellar combination for anyone.
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I didn’t think I deserved whatever I was going to ask for
This time I’d pushed it too far.
Why would anyone care about my needs? I wasn’t special.
And just when the wheels started to fall off, I’d ground myself and distract my brain from the track it was on with another one triggered by my senses. Specifically, I’d pop a sour candy in my mouth and suck on it until my brain was so distracted by the taste I had to let go of the thoughts that were previously consuming me and deal with the sourness in my mouth. It’s so effective that I still do this. In fact, every time I’m going into a situation that I know is going to be difficult for me, I have candy on me: in my pocket, in my purse, and anywhere that I can easily grab it to help me overcome whatever crap my brain is trying to convince me of that isn’t true. That way, the second I feel myself slipping into despair, I trick my brain right back out of it.
If I’m being honest, starting this type of advocating for myself while trying to conceive also helped me in the long run, as I eventually used these same techniques to advocate for my children while they were in the NICU (and beyond).
These practices helped me feel more confident when trying to negotiate with potential clients and vendors for work, they helped me learn how to go into a particularly difficult conversation with anyone feeling more prepared, and they have taught me that doctors are willing to meet you half-way as long as you can vocalize why you want what you do.
All around, it’s a giant win, and if I can do it, so can you.
Lindsay Fischer might appear to be the easy case in the infertility community, birthing twins after one IVF transfer, but there's nothing surface level about her or her commitment to helping women find their power after trauma. She is not only an infertility survivor but a domestic violence survivor, who - after ten straight years of trauma - is thriving as a best-selling author of several books, including The Two-Week Wait Challenge. Lindsay believes every woman has the power to change their lives, even when they've been knocked on their asses, and she challenges everyone to stop comparing surface levels and starting exposing souls with honest, open conversations that build community. You can find Lindsay on Instagram here.