In the last few weeks, I’ve had a few direct experiences in advocating for myself. Whether in person or professional environments, being my own advocate has proven to be invaluable and liberating. As a woman and specifically a Black woman, confidently advocating for myself is one of the most nerve-wrecking and difficult things I’ve ever done.

I’ve experienced a lay-off in the early stages of my career, jumped out of a plane and moved to one of the craziest cities in America all in the span of four years, but some of the most crippling anxiety is in the moments when I’ve had to highlight and advocate my worth, talents and value. As mentioned above, those moments have presented themselves as plentiful in the last few weeks, directly aligned to my work environment. With each experience, I’ve walked away wondering to myself, “why is this so difficult?”. 

As I reflect on some of these moments, I’ve come to the realization that advocating for yourself means knowing that you are fully worthy of having an advocate. It sounds simple, but in having a healthier and more confident view of yourself, you will then internalize the feelings of “yes! I am actually amazing and it’s my job to let people know!”.

I speak to college students on a daily basis and I love dropping “I wish I would’ve known” gems on them, so I wanted to share a few things that I’ve learned from speaking up for myself and hopeful that it will resonate for women who may be experiencing anxiousness in these moments.

Your self-image is yours to create 

Whether in a personal or professional setting, creating a healthy self-image for YOURSELF is imperative. The emphasis is on “for yourself”. You should like, enjoy and love yourself which will help in preventing you from seeking validation from anyone else. I’ve talked myself out of a lot of goals and dreams because I didn’t feel worthy enough of them. Do the work on yourself, first. Understand your limitations but sharpen your strengths. Get to know your true authentic self, so you can speak boldly about yourself.

Speak Up… Duh

Sounds easy, but for a lot of us, this is where the rubber meets the road (finally makes sense Mom & Dad!). Put us in a lively happy hour with some good girlfriends and we could rattle off our day to day responsibilities and highlight our accomplishments without taking a breath! We become frustrated when our hard work is being unnoticed, but we also forget that in part, it’s our responsibility to communicate those frustrations, your career goals and plans openly. The biggest mistake we can make is assuming that someone will understand your motivation or the hard work you put into bringing your best every day, unless you open your mouth and bring them into your world.

Shed the Negativity 

We all go through moments of frustration but carrying that heavy weight around can turn into bitterness. Change your perspective. Be mindful of all the good that surrounds the situation, whether lessons or personal growth. When preparing for the conversation or moment that you have to advocate for yourself, our nerves may get the best of us because we’ve automatically labeled the situation as “tough” or “negative”. Be intentional in framing the outcome you want before there is an outcome.

Always remember, this is a continual learning curve. It becomes easier in every circumstance. You owe it to yourself to be your best advocate!