You may be able to tell, from my blog, that I feel very strongly that:
Social Workers are special individuals.
They have chosen, not only a profession, but also an exhausting, demanding lifestyle. Social workers do not work the typical 9 to 5.
Often, they are called out at night and holidays. Leaving their own children with a caretaker , they rush out to take care of someone else’s children. I know this, because I lived it. As a worker, I responded to emergencies on Christmas Day, as well as every other major holiday.
We are aware of and regret missing out on important/special events with our family and friends due to being on emergency duty and getting that call.
A sobering moment happened for me when, having to leave one night on an emergency call, my, then 6 year old daughter said to me, “I wish I was a foster kid so you would spend so much time with me.”
Struggling to maintain a work-life balance greatly contributes to the high levels of stress in social workers. Coupled with the hours, the secondary trauma and the low pay, it is no wonder burn out is so high. That is not the direction I am taking this week’s blog. But it is related.
Self care is essential to developing a pathway towards balance. I have written several pieces on certain aspects of self care. The aspect I am writing about today centers around the company you keep.
Those who choose the path of social work can sometimes be described as the life long helpers. The practice of helping others often started in their younger life. Consequently, it is easy to remain in “rescue-mode” even when they are off duty. They are #1 on speed dial for family and friends when trouble is brewing, because they are quick to respond and help.
They are hard wired that way: sincere in their desire to give of themselves.
But often…dont get.
Think of tending a lovely garden. You have filled your watering can full of water. Pouring out the water, you nourish and/or save some delicate and world-weary plants. And you want to be sure to water them all. Unfortunately, if you dont refill your can with water, there’s only one outcome.
You come up empty.
An empty watering can will not only cease to be able to nourish the plants but also will begin the slow deterioration of rust.
There has to be a refilling of water.
You need to be replenished.
One way to replenish your water involves surrounding yourself with friends and family who provide nourishment in the form of understanding and support.
But we sometimes also allow those into our lives that are happy to receive all that you have to give but give you nothing…or worse.
What is worse than giving back nothing?
What is worse are those that consistently receive support from you but give back negativity, gossip, drama and every other soul sucking practices
I could not and would not judge what life circumstances may have led to the negativity, that surrounds some people. However, I learned how important it was for me to seek out and maintain relationships with those who not only receive the friendship I offer, but also bring life giving water to replenish me.
It wasnt always that way. I learned, the hard way, the important to recognize the people who drained my bucket rather than filling it. After spending time with certain people, I was left parched and feeling empty. What I found were a few archetypes. Here are a few of them.
The Always Needy/Never Feeding:
These people experience crisis regularly and rely on you to help them navigate the drama. They often blame everyone around them for the current situation, showing little insight into their role. And when you offer honest feedback, they accuse you of taking the other side. It can be exhausting.
But the real drain comes when you need someone to talk through a situation or issue, but they are emotionally unavailable.
The “Don’t tell anybody..but”
Gossip can be so hurtful, especially inaccurate information packaged as the truth. And it usually starts with, “Don’t tell anybody, but…”. It is so tempting to listen to the salacious news items (usually about people you both know). But the thing about gossip is that when people are quick to spread information about others, the same people will likely spread gossip about you.
Being on the target end of gossip can lead to frustration, defensiveness and self- defeat. Your water evaporates completely sapping your energy and your strength.
The “Fair Weather Friend”
Do you have “friends” that are attracted to you when you agree with everything they say? When you validate them; they love you. But when you disagree with them or take a different position, they shut the door on you.
Those are fair weather friends. They only stay when all is sunny. But at the first sign of clouds… watch them scurry. The hurt and betrayal of this type of friend can be severe, stealing your happiness (if you let it).
Self Care means so many things to those who give so much of themselves to others. But allowing people into your life that are positive caring and supportive will ensure that you have a steady source of water to replenish your bucket.
The flip side, and equally as important, is the ability to recognize and limit your exposure to the negative, gossipy and false friends who drain you of all your water, leaving you dry and susceptible to rust.