Self-advocacy is an important – if complicated – part of living with any disability, chronic illness, or severe allergy. And it works a little differently for everyone.
(and I’m terrible at it.)
I’m a terrible self-advocate. I’m just gonna say it. If self-advocacy is a breeze for you, then more power to ya. But for many people, it doesn’t come naturally. Let’s look at some of the issues surrounding it.
- I’m a people-pleaser.
I like to keep the peace. This doesn’t affect everything I do, but it certainly comes into play when I have to say “no, sorry, I have food allergies.”
- I don’t want to come across as rude (when I’m just staying safe).
It is sadly common for people to think you’re being rude or selfish when you’re actually doing something completely necessary for your health, even if you communicate it politely.
- There is an enormous amount of misinformation surrounding the issue.
When it comes to food allergies, most people aren’t aware of the potential severity of the condition. This makes it hard to self-advocate.
Even when I’m around people who should completely understand where I’m coming from, or people who have food allergies in their own family, I’m still uneasy. It only takes one “I didn’t think of that” to cause you to have a life-threatening reaction. I tend to avoid situations that will require me to educate/advocate.
That’s why self-advocacy is critical, as hard as it can be. And ultimately it’s part of learning to thrive with allergies.
There are a few ways we can be better equipped to stand up for ourselves.
- Be “general”
Sometimes it just takes a quick explanation to brush the issue aside and move on. Know when (and how) to only briefly explain your allergy.
- Know the myths as well as you know the facts
Be armed with the knowledge of the common food allergy myths and the facts behind them. (I highly recommend you check out the link I just highlighted.)
- Let the chips fall where they will
Know when to just say “no” (after five minutes of politely explaining 😂) and let the chips fall where they will.
Let me add this thought: I’m getting ready to go to college next fall, and this is going to become a very real thing. Part of self-advocacy for me at that point will mean educating my roommate (though I am going to request to room with somebody who has similar allergies) and keeping ALL wheat and gluten out of my dorm room. (If anyone has experience/thoughts on this, please let me know!)
Don’t be afraid to self-advocate. You may find someone who’s more understanding than you thought. You may inspire somebody else to stand up for their own well-being. ❤
In what areas of your life have you had to self-advocate? What was easy/difficult in that situation? Let’s chat in the comments!