I haven’t practized social work in almost a year now. I realized only in the practical sense have I not practized but in principle I never stopped being a social worker.
It is when you are having normal day-to-day conversations with friends and significant others that you realize there are certain things that have become instilled in you due to the work you do. You do these things even when you are not in a work setting. It’s like when people say lawyers like to argue…they do this even when they are not in court. It becomes their lifestyle to argue every point even when discussing general issues. In the same way, I realized the social worker in me did not switch off when I left the profession about a year ago. I still think and talk like a social worker. And I have found, to my dismay that this is not always a good thing.
Scenario 1: I am having a normal conversation with my mother and I find myself not agreeing with what she is saying. Instead of supporting my point of view properly like her daughter, I start psycho-analyzing her. I start wondering why she might be taking that stance instead of the other. Quickly in my head I am calculating how I can question her to get the right answers as if I am in a counselling session. Ask questions that will make her show me the deeper thoughts behind whatever statement she makes. This is no longer a normal mother-daughter conversation. It is now a client-social worker dialogue. The formal tone and line of questioning is enough to make anyone defensive.
Scenario 2: I am discussing a problem a friend might be having, I switch into social work mode. I start thinking every quandary has a solution and it is the role of the client (my friend) to think of all available options before selecting the desired solution…with my help of course. In a way, I think my friends appreciate the advice at the end of the day but am I really being a friend or I am treating them as clients? I doubt they care or see the difference as long as they leave with a solution. This is when I realized not so long ago that I actually give good relationship advice (just wish I could take the same advice myself). But where do you draw the line because at times our friends just want to vent and do not necessarily want to be grilled until they solve the issue.
So yes I cannot erase or silence the social worker in me. I want to be a good friend and daughter but I need to learn to balance the professional voice with my own. The two have become so mixed that I can’t tell which one is me and which one is the professional. I don’t think I want to change totally, because in principle social workers are really cool people (I have to say that!!!). I like being helpful to my friends and family but do they enjoy being treated as clients? On the other hand, I also feel that the people I care about deserve to talk to me as I am, not wearing the professional mask on.
I really should learn to just be myself…but social work is my life so I don’t know how I can separate the two.
What are your thoughts?