What is an advocate if we don’t advocate for ourselves in addition to others?
I’ve been a patient advocate for many years, and I’ve lived with chronic migraine for many more years than that. However, despite all that time and all of my experiences, I did something recently that I’d never done before: I asked for accommodations from a client.
I won’t lie; it terrified me. In fact, it made me so anxious that at another time in my life I know I would have simply written a letter terminating the relationship and quietly moved on to other projects. This time, however, I didn’t. I stepped out of my comfort zone and chose to ask for accommodations instead.
Evaluating what we need
The problem was simple: The client required too many phone calls.
For many people, this may not have been a problem. For me, it created a series of issues, including delays in taking my medication, excessive anxiety over stumbling over my words while presenting ideas and experiencing my other symptoms in the middle of a call, and adherence to a strict weekly schedule that didn’t allow enough breathing room to move things around when a bad attack hit. These issues were taking their toll on my health, and I knew something needed to change.
When I sat down to write a termination letter, though, another problem appeared. I didn’t want to stop working with this client. I like them.
The company is inspiring. The work is challenging. The benefits are high. But, under the current arrangement, so were the costs.
So I asked for a change.
Asking for help
Here’s a slightly modified version of the letter I wrote:
Dear ____ Team:
I am awed and inspired by the work performed by _______. I greatly enjoy being a part of such an incredible team, and I thank you for the opportunity. That being said, there is a part of the relationship with which I’m struggling.
When I first came on to the team, I didn’t comprehend fully the number of meetings I would be required to attend. Due to medical conditions, it is difficult for me to participate in five to six meetings per week, plus scheduled phone interviews. At this time, I am unsure how to balance those requirements with my needs, but I know adjustments must be made. Though the actual writing is going well on my end, and I always look forward to the work, the time on the phone has become prohibitive.
I am prepared to step down from my roles with the company and brands if needed. However, if there are any accommodations that could be made in this area, I’d greatly appreciate it. Either way, I know we must all do what best serves each of us.
Prioritizing ourselves empowers us
In the end, I acknowledged that I was ready to terminate the relationship if the client felt it was in their best interests. I knew they could find another writer, but I also knew I was making the choice to work with them — and it was a choice I didn’t need to make. I have other clients and other projects. By prioritizing my self-care, I gave myself permission to be my own advocate. And while I haven’t received a firm answer from my client yet on the company’s idea for next steps, they have told me they don’t want to lose me and that they are working on a plan. And, regardless of how it turns out, I feel confident that advocating for what I needed rather than simply walking away was the correct choice.
How about you? In what ways do you advocate for yourself at work or in life, or do you struggle with prioritizing your own needs? (For most of us, it’s generally some degree of both!) Please share in the comments.