Burnout Recovery

Ep114 The Transformative Power of Self-Advocacy

February 29, 2024 Dex Randall Season 2 Episode 114
Burnout Recovery
Ep114 The Transformative Power of Self-Advocacy
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Feeling undervalued and overwhelmed in your professional life?

As someone who has navigated the murky waters of burnout, I've learned that self-advocacy isn't just about speaking up—it's about recognizing your worth. Let's talk about why asserting your needs can reignite passion in your work and how it's a game-changer for your emotional well-being.

Many of us have been conditioned to believe we shouldn't make waves or demand better for ourselves, but I've learned that self-worth is non-negotiable.

Show Notes:
Ep#21 How to set effective boundaries
Ep#22 The trouble with People-pleasing
Ep#95 Mastering your Emotions
TEDx The #1 Public health Issue Doctors Aren't Talking About, Lissa Rankin
Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, Emily and Amelia Nagoski

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Dex (00:00:09) - Hi everyone! My name is Dex Randall and this is the Burnout to Leadership podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hello my friends, this is Dex once again and welcome to this week's episode on self-advocacy and such an important thing I think for those of us in burnout. So let's define that as "the act of speaking up for oneself and one's interests". Sounds appealing. Let's go. Because if you're in burnout, the chances are you're self-advocacy probably isn't the best right now. Men, women and others; Senior or junior; rich or poor; Religious, Not religious, In a hardcore, challenging professional industry where there's perhaps bullying and rigor and all of that. Any of those people can end up in this situation and if you're not standing up for yourself proactively, firmly, gently and consistently, then you're going to suffer. Women, are you with me on this? If you lack sufficient self-advocacy, if you're not speaking up for your rights and needs in a work or social setting, we'll talk today about the dynamic of that and possible results you may experience and what you can do about it.

Dex (00:01:41) - How you might prevent or cure it. But what we are not talking about in this topic today, because it's outside the realm of coaching for me, is violence, abuse and bullying. If you are currently under threat of violence or abuse, please seek the immediate help that you need. Protect yourself however you need to. However you can to remove yourself from harm's way. Seek whatever practical and emotional help is available, which could include things like helplines, medical aid, psychological aid or support from family and friends. Do not put up with violence, abuse or bullying just because you know you can survive it. It's not a good enough reason. Please do get help. So that aside, for the rest of us, failing to stand up for ourselves adequately is extremely common in burnout. And quite often it's based on the assumption that we don't deserve better, or aren't good enough or worthy enough to be treated better, or that this is just how things are and we should try harder to cope. Women listening, I know many of you feel this, and truly anyone identifying with one or more so-called minority groups on race, disability, neurodiversity, religion, gender, sexuality or whatever.

Dex (00:03:13) - And I really also want to include poverty and class. But of course, they're the majority, not the minority at all. Whichever of those areas you fall into, where you're definitely placed to have self-advocacy challenges. It's also really in the background, I think, because we're not necessarily brought up to believe that we can use our voice to claim what's ours and what we need to survive. And many of us have had that trained out of us, beaten out of us, or shamed out of us. Really importantly, a lot of people are shamed out of using their own voice in self-support. And quite often we've become used to silence being the safest option. And self-advocacy is this kind of rare jewel belonging to the privileged few. I wonder how many of you listening can relate to that. And if you can, how excruciating is that? But I think the good news is, part of my work is to really encourage people to expand the field of what's possible for them. And this includes self-advocacy, because old habits aside, many of us can advocate safely and strongly for ourselves as adults in a way that enhances our own well-being and function, enjoyment, performance without impinging on anyone else.

Dex (00:04:43) - In fact, it's quite often to the benefit of other people. Because, as I often say in respect of burnout recovery, when we fill our own cup with goodness, it overflows onto the people around us. And typically that's what we want to have happen. Me first, to the point where I can, at minimum, stand up straight and get through the day intact and then by all means, other people. And on the way through this episode today, I could suggest you listen to some of my other podcast episodes, but to be honest, self-advocacy is such a strong thread through burnout that I could recommend nearly every other episode. So have a look at the episodes for yourself. Choose them for yourself. In the show notes, I'm only going to include 2 or 3, including episode 21 on setting boundaries, which is very important, 22 on people pleasing and 95 on working with our emotions. I'm going to touch on that a bit later, so you might want to start there. Have a look at the show notes.

Dex (00:05:47) - All right. So let's talk first about women in burnout. Very difficult for women in burnout on the self-advocacy front, quite often they've grown up in a culture of expected people pleasing where they feel obliged and expected to silently and reliably anticipate and meet the needs of everyone else, regardless of how they themselves feel today, their own resources, their energy, their needs, and their own workload. They're required to act as, or perceived to be required to act as, emotional caregivers with their family, the menfolk, kids, bosses, clients, co-workers. It's about really taking on a role of being a selfless over-giver with no boundaries. And if that's you, really do listen to episode 21 on setting boundaries. Very helpful on setting boundaries in a constructive and effective way. But if that is you. If you feel that you yourself are an over-giver that's almost certain to lead to feelings of overwork, overwhelm, fatigue, emptiness, if you like. A lack of self-reference, a loss of sense of self as a separate being, compassion fatigue, feelings of inadequacy or imposter syndrome.

Dex (00:07:16) - And almost certainly in the back there - rage. And if that is you as well, if you're an over giver, then telling yourself that everything's okay doesn't work. You actually need to feel how you feel. First, you need to let your feelings come to the surface. Your emotions are valid and they can't be successfully denied. So really what we need to do if we're trying to suppress our own feelings in order to get on with it, we actually need to own and allow and complete each feeling cycle within us. Because these feeling cycles that are incomplete actually cause us harm. So we need to complete the feeling cycle. And I'll talk about how in a moment of stress, anxiety, overwhelm, frustration, exhaustion, anger, all of those. And if you want the full set of instructions about how to do this, then listen to podcast episode 95 on emotions. You'll hear all the instructions in there about how to work successfully with your feelings, and free yourself from this feeling hangover that we get when we try to suppress our emotions.

Dex (00:08:32) - But please note, first of all, that allowing your feelings is not the same as exploding your feelings all over someone else. Rather, it's about letting the waves of emotion and sensation rise up inside you. Watching them, acknowledging, accepting, paying very gentle attention. For example "Oh, here is irritation. This is what irritation feels like", and just letting the sensations and emotions be there and play themselves out inside you. That gets rid of the emotional hangover, where you might feel irritation one day and you're still feeling it the following day. So this is really about letting your feelings pass harmlessly through your body until the cycle is complete, but without acting out your feelings on others. Because acting out, really, it's suppressing or repressing your emotions until they explode over someone else. Repression is unconsciously blocking unwanted thoughts or impulses, and suppression is a voluntary containment of your own emotions. It's trying not to think about painful or unwanted thoughts that lead to negative emotions. So instead, when we own our emotions and feel them, taking full responsibility for them, rather than deflecting blame and therefore abdicating power to someone else.

Dex (00:10:04) - When we own and care for our own feelings, we can discharge the energy of them fully so they don't persist and they don't harm us or anyone else. Kind of what we've hinted out there is that we might feel compelled to take too much responsibility for other people and what they're feeling. And this creates an emotional buildup in us that occurs when we're suppressing the emotion in ourself and we're not self advocating. Here's the other side of that problem - not taking enough responsibility for ourselves. And this is operating from hyper autonomous self-sufficiency, which is really a trauma response shared by most people in burnout. What it really means is when we need help, we don't seek it, or ask for it, or accept it. And fundamentally, everyone needs help. We're biologically wired for survival to be a team sport. We're intrinsically, at the nervous system and emotional level, designed for two way social support. So hyper autonomous self sufficiently cuts us off from that. It's not our natural born state, but rather a protective habit we pick up early in life.

Dex (00:11:29) - It's not natural and it doesn't work terribly well. People who don't socially integrate in a reciprocal way live ten years shorter lives than those who are willing and able to form partnerships and supportive social networks. On a literal physiological level, loneliness kills. And if you don't believe me, listen to the TED talk I'm also going to put this in the show notes by Lissa Rankin. She made it seven years ago and so much more research is now available about loneliness and the effects of it, because social connection is vital. Can't renegotiate that. So if we can't ask for help, we probably not even empowering ourselves to ask for our internal support, to ask into ourselves, into our minds, our hearts or bodies, our spirits and what we need. We probably don't ask ourselves what we need, and then we don't cater to, try and meet, some of those needs. Which if we weren't over givers, we probably would. It would normally be expected of us as adults to recognize our own needs and go some way to meet them.

Dex (00:12:54) - But we don't. Particularly in burnout, we don't. At some point, it wasn't safe for us to acknowledge our own needs and to self-advocate. Perhaps in a younger life it was red rag to a bull, flagging to the world around us that we were underperforming, so it just wasn't safe. So think about that in your own childhood. What were you told about how you had to be and what you needed to accomplish to be acceptable? And actually, if you've become a hyper autonomous, self-sufficient person, paddling your own canoe furiously, trying to do all the things for all the people, unable to speak up for yourself, what happens then is it can manifest as chronic self neglect. And in fact, it's really a reflection. We've almost been taught to self neglect and we do. It's about self denial of our basic rights and needs. Self rejection, as if we shouldn't have needs at all. It can come up as addictive escape and also self-judgment, self punishment, self abuse, a rampant inner critic.

Dex (00:14:09) - So when you're thinking about this in yourself, if you want to check in on yourself, think about: Your sense of your own right to rest, or to have self-care or to nourishme, success, fulfillment,love, connection, passion, enjoyment, creativity, autonomy. Just a simple right to be yourself as you truly are. See if any of that is ringing any bells for you. And if listening to this, you're sensing in yourself a little bit of this might be true for you. You're finding in yourself a rising desire for greater self-advocacy, it's doubtless going to serve you very well in the long run. And I think your strongest position to take, if you have that desire for more self-advocacy, is OK I said at the beginning, if there's some threat in your life of violence or harm, first please do protect yourself and seek the help that you need. Be safe. But apart from that, really, I think the first step is to attend to your internal feelings before worrying too much about what's happening outside of you in the world, and certainly before reacting to what's happening in the world.

Dex (00:15:29) - And this is really just to avoid unnecessary and unhelpful dynamics of blame, conflict or reprisal. We don't want to get stuck into that loop immediately. So I think really it's helpful to take responsibility for your own feelings because this gives you back power. You take your power back from a dependency on others. So recognize your needs and your feelings real time if you can. There's a practice that you can do about this. Look at episode 95 if you want to try this out for yourself. And when you look at your own needs and feelings real time, you'll start to recognize them. Oh, here's rage or oh, here's irritation or oh, here's frustration. Accept those feelings in yourself. They are real and they are valid. And you're having them. They're part of you. It's okay for them to be there. And when you accept that it's okay for them to be there, then you can give your feelings your kind attention, gentle attention. And you can listen to your body. What does it need? And become willing to tend to your body and your feelings long enough just to feel the sensations of those feelings passing through your body and allow them to completely discharge.

Dex (00:16:53) - And this is so that they don't linger, so they don't cause disruption to your mind, and they don't harm you. If you're feeling irritation today, you can discharge it today, not keep it till tomorrow and the day after, next week. And once the first flush of any feeling has passed in this way you're going to feel somewhat calmer. You're going to connect a little bit with your inner wisdom about what's happening or your higher power, perhaps. And look for non harming solutions. And the reason we do that is causing additional harm to yourself or to others is probably not going to get you where you would like to go. And then when we come from this wisdom, we can decide how to address the external situation. And it might include just temporarily withdrawing to gather your wits. It might include opening to curiosity, searching for deeper understanding of your' and other people's beliefs and behaviors. And it might include self-advocacy and even setting boundaries. It might include negotiation. But seek a way through. that causes the least damage and yet upholds your rights and needs.

Dex (00:18:09) - Seek a position of dignity rather than aggression or blame. For me, the basic principles of self-advocacy mean really, we calm ourselves. We first of all take responsibility for ourselves and our inner state so we can calm ourselves down. So we we work with energy principles that allow us to calm our body and mind a little bit and choose the path of no harm. Then we become willing to speak up for ourselves, not against others. It's much more important to speak for what we need than to worry about what anyone else is up to. Because we can manage and control ourselves much more simply than we can manage and control others. It's much more to our benefit to manage ourselves than to try to manage another adult human. However, then when we choose self-advocacy, what we're doing is asserting our needs and desires, because desires are also valid, without impinging others. We do this as an adult, and when we assert ourselves and declare what we need or what we desire, we are best served by doing this without the expectation that other people will meet our needs and desires.

Dex (00:19:31) - They may, but they may not. And that's their right as an adult to go either way. So rather, we do this as a request. We stand up for ourselves without demanding anything of others. We just put it as a request. These are my needs and desires and I would love it if you could be this way. And then maybe they will, or maybe they won't. What you're really doing then is you're saying yes to self-respect, self-worth, self care, self approval, self-advocacy, self acceptance, self-love, self support, and all of those are incredible strengths that we hold within us. Just acting in those ways. Self-respect. With care. Approval. Advocacy. Acceptance. Love. Support. Very powerful for us to create resilience. To help us thrive without anyone else needing to change anything. And when we do those things also, we teach other people how to relate to us by example. We respect ourselves and we almost teach them and show them how to respect us. And they can make that choice.

Dex (00:20:46) - And also we do this because we can only receive what we first give to ourselves. So if we want acceptance, starting with self-acceptance is very powerful. If we want support, starting by self-support is very powerful. We can't really expect other people to make up our missing needs if we're denying it to ourselves, refusing to do it for ourselves. It's unlikely we'll even receive it from other people if they do offer it. So if people genuinely care for us and would like to support us, it might easily bounce if we're not willing to support ourselves. Okay, and here's a couple of things I definitely do not recommend. I don't recommend blame aggression, antagonistic or argumentative behavior, reprisals, explosive or dumping or acting out behavior. And I don't recommend being arrogant, demanding, overbearing or entitled. And the reason I don't recommend any of that is not especially to be nice to other people, but because it won't serve you to make those choices, it won't get you what you want. I really rather would wish you a very robust self-advocacy.

Dex (00:22:11) - I always recommend that my clients learn to champion themselves in this way. It's so powerful to make these choices for yourself rather than against other people, because it costs nothing. It needs nothing. It's always available to you, and it leads to rapid growth in strength, energy, and enjoyment and self-fulfillment. If you are in burnout and you want a massive resurgence in your well-being, self-advocacy is a really great place to start. And if you'd like some help with this, you must come and talk to me about how you can recover from burnout quickly, sustainably, and get back to your best performance, leadership, success, and most of all, enjoyment inside working out. Book an appointment to speak with me at Dexrandall.com. And if you enjoyed this episode, I would love you to help me reach more people in burnout by writing and reviewing the podcast. I really do appreciate your supporting, and if you know somebody else who's heading towards or in burnout, please send them the podcast link because it's packed as today with practical tips for burnout recovery.

Dex (00:23:24) - I recommend that new people listen to the first five episodes to get started. Thank you so much for listening.

Dex (00:23:31) - Catch you next time.

Self-Advocacy and Burnout
Violence, Abuse, and Bullying exempt
Encouraging Self-Advocacy
Women and Self-Advocacy
Emotional Awareness
Hyper-Autonomous Self-Sufficiency
Absence of self-support
Principles of Self-Advocacy
Effective Self-Advocacy
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