Are you listening?

We bring you this post from Megan Dorwin, our Policy and Economic Justice intern.

I’m a social worker who spends the majority of her time with other social workers. And there’s a trend I’ve noticed lately about people in the helping professions. We require a lot from our partners and friends.

person-in-crowdAs “helping professionals” we strive to be present, centered, and compassionate, focusing on the needs of individuals and communities we serve. We dedicate one third of our lives to others and, quite frankly, it’s exhausting. As five-o’clock rolls around and I transition back from professional to person, I can’t wait for someone to do the same for me.

I want so desperately to be heard with the same care that I have extended to others throughout the work day. In my personal relationships I feel like I’m jumping up and down shouting: “Listen to me! Listen to me!” It’s about my desire to reconnect with a neglected piece of myself; my longing to feel my own needs and desires being met. Unfortunately, in this process I sometimes end up shouting over those I care about most.

So what’s going on here? In the social work field there seems to be a blind spot in applying our knowledge about healthy relationships and healthy lives to ourselves. I see this in our work environments, educational institutions, and personal relationships. At work it’s about meeting the needs of others. This isn’t a bad thing: it’s why most of us become “helpers” in the first place. But after a while, the work can take its toll on a person. But just because we work in jobs that are emotionally taxing, it doesn’t mean we get a free pass to neglect the needs of others when we see fit. We have to find a balance so that we’re not sacrificing ourselves at work and expecting our loved ones to do the same for us at home.

The people we love and care about want to support us, but they also need to be supported. Yes, sometimes we need to be heard; to share what’s on our hearts and minds. But we also have to step outside our needs and make sure we’re taking care of the needs of those around us. Our lovers, families, friends, co-workers, and communities will be better for it, and so will we.