Self-Advocacy for Optimal Diabetes Care: The Basics of Advocating for Yourself

Your needs to properly care for your diabetes are an inherent right. To do so, is probably going to require you to advocate for your needs more than a few times and in several settings.

Here I’ll give some suggestions for how people with diabetes can better advocate for themselves. And, while this entry covers the basics of self-advocacy skills, be sure to tune in for a future post on advocating your needs to those in your inner circle, with diabetes-specific examples for talking to health care providers, family and friends, co-workers, and more!

Self-advocacy with type 2 diabetes

To advocate, by definition, is “to support or argue for,” or “to plead in favor of”.1 So, to me, it means that I have needs, opinions, and feelings, which may not be the same as for others but are still valid. And, oh boy does this show up in diabetes care and supporting healthy behaviors in general.

General self-advocacy tips

Speaking of generalizations, let’s get started by reviewing some general self-advocacy tips:

Self-care is not selfish

Looking out for your own interests (especially when it comes to your mental and physical health) is not selfish, it’s self-care. If you don’t have your own best interest in mind, who does? And, when it comes to diabetes, neglecting your own needs can have serious consequences.

Speak up

Speak up! This means asking for help and speaking up if you feel that your needs are not being met.

Most people, when asked appropriately and sincerely, will respond to a genuine request for help. Usually, they are either happy to assist or, at least not blatantly opposed to it (as long as it is a reasonable request). Oftentimes people fear that they will excessively inconvenience others, but are surprised to find that it is not often the case.

When the circumstances don’t seem to consider your needs, speak up but don’t assume the worst. It doesn’t always mean that someone is trying to pull one over on you, take advantage of you, or prevent you from taking care of yourself. Most of the time, other people in the situation don’t know how you feel or what’s going on, they are unaware of your needs, or unaware of how their actions are impacting you. It is possible to find a suitable solution, but not unless you speak up.

Be assertive

Use assertive communication tactics. Assertive communication strategies actually strengthen relationships because it helps people know where you stand. When it comes to assertiveness, it is

  • Neither passive nor aggressive, it's that sweet spot
  • Talking and listening
  • Standing up for yourself and for what is fair and right
  • Most effective when points are expressed clearly and confidently

Be prepared

When going into a difficult conversation, be prepared. It’s frustrating to fumble for the right words to get your point across when you are in the moment. Plus, responses and statements from others can get your mind off track, or perhaps, cause you to feel overwhelmed, intimidated, emotional, or frustrated.

  • Think about what you are going to say ahead of time.
  • Write down key points if needed.
  • Rehearse your points out loud and be sure to practice with a confident tone.
  • For some situations where you are concerned about the reaction of the other person, consider writing a letter first, where you communicate and layout your points. But also request an in-person discussion to follow up on it.

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