I honestly cannot believe it is already February! With only 3 months left till graduation, this 1-year Advanced Standing program has truly flown by. As I sit and reflect on what this year has meant to me, a very important lesson has come up throughout my time here. This lesson cannot be learned in a classroom, or asked on an exam—but rather through my experiences at the School of Social Work.
Recently, I have learned about the power of being human. Yes, you heard me right. Whether it is in front of my supervisor, my teachers, or even my clients in the field, the power of vulnerability and looking imperfect has allowed for me to grow in this program so deeply. Coming into this program I thought I had to have it all together. I am the cookie cutter depiction of a perfectionist—with my oversized planner and highlighter in hand. I assumed that having it all together equaled success and that messing up meant failure. I couldn’t be more wrong.
Throughout my many trials and errors in the field and in the classroom, I have learned that in order to have true “mastery” of something, you need to mess up! More importantly, I’ve learned that in order to change and learn something new, you need to be placed out of your comfort zone and thrown into an opportunity for growth. Allowing yourself the ability to ask questions throughout your MSW year will actually propel you further, rather than making you seem weak in the face of other people.
I am humbled especially when I am able to show this human and vulnerable side during my field placement at WakeMed Hospital. A majority of my time is spent on the Labor/Delivery floor, as women deal and cope with various psychosocial issues. These specific issues can vary anywhere from depression to homelessness to domestic violence to substance use/abuse.
When I first entered the field, I thought my perfectionist ways would allow me to excel in this environment—that I would study hard to conduct my client interactions flawlessly, with a one size fits all assessment for every person I met. With each meeting I would gain the mastery I needed to gain in this program. Boy, was I wrong!
I realized having that mentality was actually cutting my clients short, because it wasn’t patient centered care, and it was also cutting myself short by preventing me from growing and truly understanding the heart of my clients. I had to remember that people are complex. We have many layers and deep stories that reveal character. I had to cut my patients the slack of knowing not EVERY person would fit into my assessment. Instead, I learned what it meant to be human. To just sit and LISTEN to a person first before immediately trying to gain the information I needed for a screening assessment.
I quickly learned how important it is to show this human side in the face of working with clients. By showing them that I do NOT have it all together, it actually allows others to be free and be vulnerable as well. You will also learn this takes pressure off yourself to reach a standard that is often unattainable. I was surprised how much this paradigm shift has really improved my practice. I do not have to have it all together, but I do need to allow myself the grace to step out from my perfectionist nature to ask the appropriate questions in the MSW program.
I want to be clear that being human mean does not need to mean sharing personal information with your clients. For me, it means showing imperfections as they naturally appear, rather than trying to cover them up as a response to trying something new. The power of being human with my clients also allowed me to be human with myself. I have worked hard at allowing myself the ability to make mistakes. It sounds juvenile, I know—but it has been an unexpected lesson that I have truly valued during my MSW time here.
True mastery of something (MSW)=messing up!
It okay to make mistakes sometimes. There is power in being human