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Self-Advocacy: Communicating our Strengths and Needs to Those Around Us

Updated: May 24, 2022

Self-advocacy is the practice of communicating the things that you deal with from a disability so that you can set boundaries, get accommodations, or explain the strengths or limitations that you have. This is an important part of our process for self-discovery. Understanding your strengths, your limitations, and the accommodations you need allows you to be much more successful and happier in your life. This personal journey that we must take if we are going to manage our ADHD.

Man sitting against a wall - dark background "Self-Advocating is a part of managing your ADHD. Without it the daily pain you experience is not understood, and your needs will be ignored."
Art by Shane Thrapp

Self-advocacy is not just for the workplace, it is also good for explaining to your family and friends and your spouses. Letting them know what you deal with and the things that you need help with lets them be aware of what you’re going through. A part of Self-Advocacy is learning and understanding your own ADHD, and what that means for you. Explaining that you stim, fidget, or are uncomfortable making eye contact are examples of advocating and informing those around you so that they understand when and why you do it. Explaining to your partner/spouse that there are chores that you absolutely hate or can not do allows you to adjust who does what chores. This can help prevent or lessen negative feedback or discord within the relationships.

Self-Advocacy is a personal decision, you do not have to disclose if you are not comfortable with a person/people knowing, but it is a good idea if you feel you can trust a person, or a company, to let them know if you need accommodations for what you’re going through.

Self-Advocacy helps with Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria as it lets the important people who are a part of our lives know what triggers that you may have and allow them to be aware of (If it happens) what to do if you do have an outburst (give you space, talk you down, whatever calms you down). It can ease some of the pain you cause to people with outbursts. It also allows them to know what triggers you and they can head it off at the pass with words of affirmation or giving you feedback in a way that allows you to slow down the process of the feelings of rejection and constructively deal with the feelings.

Knowing our triggers for pain is important, but even more important is knowing our triggers for success. Dr. Ned Hallowell and Dr. John Ratey, in their book ADHD 2.0, talk about “Recognition Responsive Euphoria,” or RRE. This is the positive feeling that people with ADHD get when they receive praise for the work that they are doing, or other things that they are working on. It helps dramatically with their motivation, and by self-advocating, you can teach your friends and loved ones how to do this, so that we are not crushed constantly by RSD.

A little known part of Self-Advocacy is that it includes boundaries, not just for those around you, but for yourself. Boundaries such as when to wake up, when to get ready for sleep, when you need leave for work, when to eat, when to rest. A friend of mine brings up that we need to not forget “Oh Shit” time when you set your alarm for when it’s time to get up, (Thank you J Lee) These boundaries are also important because if someone is negative towards what you are going through, or what medications you take, or about you going through therapy, or anything else you do to manage your ADHD, then they DO NOT have to be in your life. Boundary examples can be from disclosing what I’ve explained as above, that you stim, fidget, or don’t make eye contact and someone ridicules you for it, that person doesn’t need to be around you.

Something to keep in mind as far as boundaries in the workplace, a company that does not respect your needs/accommodations may not be a good fit for you. Having this self-awareness can help you determine that quicker, and find the companies, careers, or types of self-employment that fit you the best.

Rest, doing something you enjoy, is not a reward. It should be an integral part of your day, and a part of managing your ADHD. Always schedule a rest period in your day where you can fuck off and do whatever you enjoy doing. Taking a nap, playing a video game, playing music. You should schedule rest as a part of your day.

Self advocacy is a massively important aspect of managing our ADHD, and the self-discovery that it requires really helps us understand how to use our superpowers that we have from our ADHD, as well as advocating for the accommodations that we need for the disabling issues we face with having ADHD and its comorbidities.

If you feel lost, if you don't know where to turn, or how to manage your ADHD, set up a Free Discovery Consultation with me today and let's discover who you are.


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