Whoa, I may have actually changed the world…

…or at least someone’s world.

I’ve come to the end of my contract at my job as a community outreach worker. I spent four years getting to know people, providing them with resources, helping them achieve their goals, and just kind of being a friend to people who may not have a lot of support in their lives.

This past week, it has really started to hit home how big an impact you can have on people’s lives. A group of clients threw me a surprise going away party at their house- BBQ, pasta salad, beautiful cake, gifts. I was stunned. But, it shows that not only do I care about their well-being, they care about me too. We built genuine relationships and that is a hard thing to do with people living in poverty and distrustful of the system or representatives of the systems.

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My work held another BBQ for all my clients to come say good-bye to me. I was shocked to see 30-40 people roll through to say good luck, give me hugs, and pass me very sweet cards of thanks and encouragement.

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I’ve also been getting lovely words from colleagues. Happy for me, but sad to lose me in this fight for social justice.
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So, it has really hit me… I may have actually made an impact- on people, on the community, on policy, on a city. The world, or maybe just someone’s world. That’s an accomplishment and I am proud and grateful.

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And maybe they changed me a little bit too. And I guess that’s what it’s all about. Affecting people, affecting change. Working for a common goal. Working together. Being kind. Loving one another.

Whoa… that’s heavy.

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The state of my workspace

I’m lucky enough to have my own private office in a building with around 10 other staff members. At my job, my days are never the same and never, ever boring. Sometimes there isn’t enough hours to get the work done and ensure my space is presentable. Sometimes my desk holds 5 empty, but used, coffee cups. Other times, I have a mile-high pile of articles to read. I’m getting better at filing and documenting in Word/Excel, but I still struggle with my physical space. Keeping it tidy and organized.

Here’s a little glimpse into my work space- meticulously un-curated, as is, on an average day.

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What’s your work space like? Tidy or similar to mine?

News about the Imposter Syndrome

Good news- I feel a lot less depressed lately.

Less than good news- I feel very beat down in some aspects of my life.

I was speaking to a friend very briefly today about how I feel I’m not measuring up. How every time I think I’ve done something exceptional, it seems to come back to me as having actually done a stupid thing or the wrong thing instead.

And these thoughts got me thinking about the Imposter Syndrome.

“a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved.”

I’ve always said to myself and to other people with similar feelings “fake it til you make it, because no one else knows what they’re doing either.” But the latter part of that saying is the hardest to believe. Why does everyone seem to know more or be better at things? Why do I, and others with the same feelings, feel like we’re not measuring up all the time? I don’t believe it’s that we are not measuring up, but we are exaggerating everyone else’s success. Not to mention others are also exaggerating their own success to impress.

Interestingly enough, impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women. Of course,  I’m not going to call myself “high-achieving” because I don’t see myself that way… and that’s probably a bit of that Imposter talking. But why, as women, are we constantly second guessing our success and intelligence? Is it because women are still earning 70-80% less than what men earn? Or is it because affirmative action is practiced and we aren’t completely sure if we were the best candidate for the job?

Case in point, when I have to do public speaking I always feel like a blithering idiot. I get so nervous! But when I hear the recording or watch the video of me speaking, it does not sound the way I thought it sounded when the words were spewing out in what I thought was a jumbled mess! I get compliments from people who were listening/watching and I just assume they are being overly nice and trying to make me feel better.

I don’t have any answers on how you can feel less like a failure in life. But, when you start getting those feelings take a minute to step outside of your head and really take a look at yourself and your perceived failures. Also, remember that many of the people you may be comparing yourself to could be “in the middle of their story” while you’re “only at beginning of your story”. I often find I’m comparing myself to people 10 years older than me because we are colleagues or I respect them, their intelligence, and what they do. That’s really not fair to me when they’ve had an extra decade to gather knowledge and have learning experiences.

If all else fails, listen to April Ludgate.

Anyone else feel like an imposter sometimes? 

Is Good Work Enough?

UntitledFor those of you who don’t know, I am a community social worker administering services in the form of a community development model. All this really means is I am a well-informed friend and cheerleader to people who don’t have anyone else to play that role for them. I work with some of the most vulnerable and troubled people in the City. I see and hear of violence, addictions, serious mental illnesses, trauma, physical health issues, systemic racism, and many more things on a daily basis.

Those things take a terrible toll on the folk I work with everyday. But, as much as I hate to admit, those things have taken a terrible toll on me over these last three years. I’ve begun to take these things too personally, like these things are happening to a family member or friend. I’ve let my boundaries come down as I’ve gotten to know these people over years and I’ve gotten too close to many clients.

I wouldn’t normally consider this to be a problem in the type of work I am currently doing. As a social worker, trust and positive relationships can be difficult to come by. I am thankful I’ve been able to break down barriers and provide accessible service to those who are mostly forgotten by other systems.

But, back to the problem- recently, I’ve had to deal with the deaths of two clients I became very close with. One was expected and I found easier to deal with. The most recent was very sudden and it has really hit me hard. I visited her in the hospital two days before she passed, she seemed in decent shape and I was really looking forward to her recovery when we could do more things together to increase her quality of life. I thought this trip to the hospital might actually be a good thing as it would force her to address her neglected health and get her the services she didn’t want to admit she needed.

After all the work we did together- renovating her rooming house, planting gardens every year, endless chats, problem solving, and so much more… I find myself wondering:

“what good did it really do? I couldn’t convince her to address her health
conditions. I couldn’t get her think of her future. I couldn’t save her life.”

So, is my good work really enough?

I know people will step in when I relay these concerns and tell me that what I do really does make a difference in lives. But when the vast negatives overshadow those teeny, tiny victories it really makes you question yourself and the systems you work in. Is all this heartache and acquisition of vicarious trauma really making the world a better place for anyone? Am I working myself into burnout for the good of others? If someone benefits, I’m happy to take on the work and the trouble. But, how will I ever know?

How will I know that good work is enough to make a difference in these lives?