Susanna Harwood Rubin
Susanna is the author of Yoga 365, teaches yoga, meditation, and Writing Your Practice workshops and online courses. She’s also one of our very favorite humans.
Photo of Susanna: Nousha Salimi Photography
Standing up for ourselves is one of the hardest things to do. Fighting for the rights of others is often easier, because it is more objective than our own internal system of checks, balances, and self-doubt. Before we can advocate for ourselves, we must believe that we matter, that we are worthy. And sadly, this is far trickier and elusive than we imagine. Whether we realize it or not, we generally recognize other people’s value more than we do our own. This is heartbreaking. If we don’t love ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to love us? If we don’t recognize our own value, how can we possibly expect others to see it? And if we don’t stand up for ourselves, we send a quiet but powerful message to everyone around us that our lives are lesser than, that we don’t matter. We MUST advocate for ourselves: when we are wronged in any way, when we know we deserve something we’ve been denied, when we are treated as lesser than. And here’s the next level of the problem: when we are belittled, dismissed, or mistreated, the rage and sadness that should rightfully be turned into external action gets turned inward upon ourselves. We absorb all that jagged corrosive energy instead of releasing it. Our minds-bodies-hearts are ground down by our lack of self-advocacy. We curl in on ourselves in muffled anger. We gnaw at our insides in frustration and impotence.
For many of us, self-advocacy is gut-wrenching.
In the midst of Breast Cancer treatment, I have had to stand up and fight for my rights with one particular doctor in a way that has shocked me. I doubted myself. I sat home and cried. I spit out irate monologues trying to hear what my outrage sounded like so I could evaluate its validity. Was I not clear enough when I asked for help? Are my expectations unrealistic? Am I the difficult one and not the doctor who is ignoring me for weeks during treatment? Thankfully, I was surrounded with supportive medical professionals and amazing family and friends, who all said, no-it’s not you. The hospital stepped in and deftly solved the problem; I begin fresh with a new doctor this week. I am grateful for such support. I am grateful that I’ve learned to trust my own instincts and voice. I am grateful that I’ve learned how to love myself – a lifelong journey. Please think about all this the next time your heart, mind, or gut tells you that something is not right in how you’ve been treated. Take a moment. Think about it. Solicit the opinions of your friends and family, as well as someone more objective. Ask yourself this: If this happened to my child, my lover, my family member, my best friend, what would I do? And there is your answer.
Believe in yourself.
Advocate for yourself.