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  • Isabella Bullock

Self-Advocacy Exhaustion

Updated: Mar 27

Over the summer, I ended up traveling back-to-back to Las Vegas and 48 hours later to Austin, Texas. Airfare travel takes a lot of self-advocacy from people with disabilities, especially when they're traveling alone. During both of my trips, I had to self-advocate multiple times on how to safely maneuver my body on and off the plane and how to handle my chair in a safe manner. Even with self-advocating and educating the airport staff on how to do a two-man lift I was dropped. To say the least, I was experiencing self-advocacy exhaustion by the end of my second trip.


A white woman with medium length blond hair drinking a margarita while smiling at the camera. She wears a brittney spears t-shirt.

Self-advocacy is an important aspect of achieving personal goals, particularly for those who are part of underrepresented groups. It involves speaking up for oneself, asserting one's needs, and advocating for one's rights. However, self-advocacy can also be exhausting, especially when it is a constant and ongoing effort.


Self-advocacy exhaustion is a state of mental and emotional fatigue that results from the continual effort of advocating for oneself. It can manifest as feelings of frustration, burnout, and disengagement from the process of advocating for oneself. This exhaustion can be particularly challenging for individuals who are part of marginalized communities and face systemic barriers that require constant advocacy efforts.


One of the main causes of self-advocacy exhaustion is the emotional labor that comes with constantly having to assert oneself. This emotional labor includes the need to educate others about one's needs and rights, dealing with rejection or invalidation, and navigating complex systems that are not designed to accommodate one's needs. This can be especially taxing when these efforts do not result in the desired outcomes.


Another cause of self-advocacy exhaustion is the lack of support that individuals may face in their advocacy efforts. This support can come in many forms, such as access to resources, a supportive community, or allies who can amplify one's message. Without such support, individuals may feel isolated and powerless, leading to further exhaustion.


So how can individuals manage self-advocacy exhaustion? Here are some strategies that may be helpful:


  1. Prioritize self-care: Self-advocacy can be emotionally taxing, and it is important to take care of oneself. This can include activities such as exercise, meditation, therapy, or spending time with loved ones.

  2. Set realistic goals: Advocacy efforts can be overwhelming, and it is important to break them down into manageable steps. Setting realistic goals can help individuals feel a sense of progress and accomplishment, which can be motivating.

  3. Seek out support: Having a supportive community or allies can make a big difference in advocacy efforts. This can include joining advocacy groups or seeking out individuals who share similar experiences.

  4. Take breaks: It is important to recognize when advocacy efforts are becoming overwhelming and to take breaks when needed. This can include taking a step back from advocacy efforts for a period of time or delegating tasks to others.

  5. Celebrate successes: Advocacy efforts can be challenging, and it is important to celebrate successes along the way. This can include acknowledging progress made towards a goal or celebrating a successful outcome.

Self-advocacy is an important tool for achieving personal goals and advocating for one's rights. However, it can also be exhausting, particularly for individuals who are part of marginalized communities. By prioritizing self-care, setting realistic goals, seeking out support, taking breaks, and celebrating successes, individuals can manage self-advocacy exhaustion and continue to make progress towards their goals.


Isabella Bullock is a proud disabled woman who lives in Michigan. She is a disability activist who loves iced coffee and reading romance books.


To learn more about Advocacy, check out our Advocacy & Disability Rights Resource.


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