Do you ever wake up in the morning with big aspirations for the day? You wake up with this bright idea that your entire to do list is going to be wiped out before it becomes time to make dinner. You tell yourself that you’re not going to let any distractions get in the way. You’re going to limit your screen time, you’re not going to worry about the shows on Netflix, you’re going to put your headphones in and put some light music on and sit at your desk and do all the work that you need to do. If you’re anything like me, most days you wake up with full ambitions to save the world. But sometimes, the only thing you can save, is yourself.
I’m a social worker. That’s what I do. That’s my plan for if this whole writing thing doesn’t work out for me. I help people. I’m sure each of you reading this has your own idea what a social worker does, and I can assure you, unless you are a social worker or know a social worker you probably don’t fully understand the scope of what we do. That’s okay, neither do we.
We aren’t the bad guys, we are the good guys. Were the ones that will advocate for you, the ones who will trudge through the many different systems that you don’t know how to navigate and we will make sure that your needs are met. And so, as a social worker I have this natural desire to just help people. That’s what I like to do, it’s what I’m good at. Helping. Even so, there are days that my to do list does not get checked off, I do get distracted, and I don’t help as many people as I should. There are days when I forget my cape at home.￼￼￼￼￼￼
It’s overwhelming. Being a social worker. People look at us as being fixers, but the truth is is I don’t fix anything. I can’t fix alcoholism or poverty or homelessness. I can’t erase trauma or abuse or neglect. I can’t fix anything. I can; however, do my best to help.
Sometimes, I feel like the people that I work with are looking at me to be a superhero. To swoop in and save the day. I feel as though people look at me as if I’m supposed to have all of the answers, and I have some, but I don’t have all of them. And when I don’t have the answers, or I don’t have a quick fix for something, or if I admit it’s going to take more than a couple of weeks to figure out a solution or begin to see progress, I can see in people’s eyes — they look at me like I’m less of a superhero.
Being a social worker means that I am in a job that is low paid and overworked. And I’ve had countless supervisors and professors tell me that I should not try to save the world. And that if I do, I will get burnt out fairly quickly. I’m not afraid of that, though. I would still like to try to save the world. I just think that with saving the world, you have to admit that sometimes, it’s okay to forget your cape at home.
I might not be able to fix alcoholism, but I can’t provide tools and resources to help somebody overcome alcoholism all on their own. To be their own superhero. I cannot erase neglect or abuse or trauma, but I do have therapeutic tools to intervene in someone’s life to hopefully give them the opportunity to save themselves from negative barriers in their lives and maybe even erase some of that pain all by themselves. And I may forget my cape at home on occasion, but I’m still going to fight tooth and nail to make sure that everybody who asks for my help gets it.
So why, am I surrounded by a group of social workers who are afraid to try to save the world? I think it’s because people are too hard on themselves. And we are too hard on other people. When we fantasize that another human will be able to erase all of our pain, that person is being set up for failure. Nobody can change your life but you. With that being said I can put on my fictional cape and show up to work every day, yet if my client doesn’t believe that he or she is also wearing a cape, progress probably won’t be made.￼￼
When we forget that it is okay to leave our capes at home, and just survive the day, we hold unrealistic expectations for what we’re capable of doing. We are all human beings with our own limits and if we’ve reached our limit it’s unfair to ourselves to think that by putting on a cape we will be able to push past our limits and continue to work at our full capacity.￼
Each one of us, no matter what walk of life we are currently walking, has know and understand that it’s okay to just survive. Most days it’s good to wake up with full ambitions to save the world. But on occasion, there’s no shame in waking up and realizing saving ourselves is more than enough.