Exploring Advocacy

What does advocacy look like? It depends on the day. Advocacy wears many faces—influenced by stress and our emotional reserves. Advocacy’s public face consistently exudes confidence, clarity and conviction. Occasionally I meet that threshold—but rarely. I fall into berating myself for delivering a less than stellar performance. My head knows that I always do my best, while my heart remains a harsh critic.

Speaking up is never easy when you are the voice of dissention. Think about those times when your words and body tremble, but you speak up anyway. It takes courage and speaks volumes about the power of your convictions. Yet, we readily dismiss the courage. Instead, we chastise ourselves when confidence and clarity are absent. Self-doubt fills the void.

Entrenched societal attitudes, marginalization and judgement, sow self-doubt’s toxic brew. Educational, medical and social service systems standardize processes and determine who gets key resources. Individual worthiness comes into question. Feel familiar? The good news is that remaining acutely aware of this environmental context and staying rooted helps you weather damaging storms.

Having strong values and a clear vision of a positive future are critical. It prompts you to question, challenge and engage, on countless occasions. Staying afloat isn’t always easy. Nourishment is essential, especially when your energy supply is running low. That’s when trusted allies are needed to prop you up, so as not to lose your foot hold. Gather as many allies as you can—friends, family, other parents, empathetic system representatives. There are no limits.

As advocates we challenge ourselves to reframe, stay grounded, accept fallibility and imagine better. Bravery is always on call. The reward is a life enriched beyond what was offered for our loved one - unimagined learning opportunities, resilience, clarity, competence and confidence. Who could ask for more?

Susan Dunnigan

May 2022