I have just finished watching a presentation from Brene Brown, a researcher who gives some amazing talks about various topics which relate well to the work that I do as a Social Worker. Not surprising as she has a strong background in Social Work herself. She talks a lot in the talk about ‘vulnerability’ and believing in our worthiness to be loved and accepted.
I have always been someone who maybe underestimates my abilities, my worthiness if you like. I have experience in my profession, but particularly since my diagnosis – almost from Day 1 – I have had several crises of confidence. Thoughts of ‘can I still do this job?’ and ‘should I still do this job?’ and ‘am I still an important member of my team?’ These are very often present in my thoughts.
I have a colleague who has been working with me for under a year and we have a great working relationship. She is very supportive and often says to me that I have a wealth of information and how much she is learning from me. Every time she says this I feel a little bit surprised that she is so impressed with my work and values my contribution so much. I have this little voice in my head saying ‘Who me? I’m not so sure…’
In the talk which I post a link to below, Brene talks about having compassion for ourselves first before we can show compassion to others. To be authentic, to be prepared to be vulnerable. Wise words. These are things that I fear I sometimes struggle with. However, I do try to be honest and open and I guess at times open myself to being vulnerable. By saying that I am struggling, that I need help, that there are things that I need to consult with others on to feel safe in my work that to me is being authentic. To allow myself to be vulnerable and sometimes say that I don’t quite know what to do in the complexities that surround me in my work.
But it’s not just in my work. I know that I can be hard on myself when things don’t work out how I thought they should. When I have trouble parking straight in a carpark. When my baking doesn’t quite turn out how it should. When a meal isn’t quite right. All these things can make me doubt myself. Is my Parkinson’s making me forget how to do things? Is my perception affected and making it difficult for me to judge the gap to park my car? Does that mean my condition is progressing? How long will I be able to drive? What will I do if the answer is yes to all these questions?
Then I stop and think and look at all the positive things I can do. I can still work four days a week and for the most part I think I am effective. There have been some difficult moments recently, but then I need to acknowledge the gratitude of those who feel I have done something positive to help and support them. When a team member values my presence at a meeting, or my input into discussions regarding a patient, I need to reflect that I am still seen to have value.
One thing Brene Brown said that resonated with me, was this:
“Well, you know that situation where you get an evaluation from your boss, and she tells you 37 things that you do really awesome, and one “opportunity for growth?” “And all you can think about is that opportunity for growth, right?”
That is so me! I can have up to 10 patients and their families at the moment that I am working with. Of those ten I would say at least 8 of them feel that I have helped them or are continuing to help them. But, it’s the one patient’s family and my less than positive interactions with them that I ruminate about. I’m not coming home and telling my husband about the good stuff and celebrating my successes. Instead it’s the less positive interactions that hit home and weigh heavy on my shoulders at times.
In my life with Parkinson’s it is much the same. If I have a few break through tremors I view them with trepidation. Are my symptoms getting worse? Is the medication not working so well? Is my condition progressing? The answer to all these is probably that some small changes are to be expected. But, I know that I need to find the positives. I can still ride my e-bike. I can still paint the fence all by myself. I am agile enough to climb the steps up to my garden and work in it. As long as I am not too fatigued. I can walk without the use of aids. My voice is still strong, my stride is still confident and sure. I can still cook a decent meal. I am still a valued member of my family.
Brene talks about it being OK to be imperfect. I have always said ‘perfection is over-rated’. I want who I am to be enough. I want that my being imperfect and being honest about it can be OK. I want to ‘practice gratitude and joy’ as Brene has said, for I have a lot to be grateful for and to be joyful about.
Here’s her talk. It’s well worth 20 minutes of your time to listen to.