Don’t let your professional role stop you from being human

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I was working as a hospice social worker when a nurse colleague was nearly killed in a car accident. She was in a rural area visiting patients.

Many of us gathered in the E.R. waiting room for news. I felt a combination of panic and rage. Rage because the reason she was out there was lack of trust in our employer.

She couldn’t trust her employer or colleagues to be willing to travel those distances to see patients. So she just did it.

I won’t name the hospice but it was corporate in the office and compassionate in the trenches. The former mindset was embodied in our executive director. A person who chose to make an appearance at the E.R.

I offer you this background for context. The point of this is the following exchange.

When the E.D. attempted to express empathy I heard it as disingenuous. She also phrased it as though she were speaking on behalf of the company. So it sounded more like a commercial for them than comforting for us.

She ended with something like, “That means we look out for each other.”

I snapped at her angrily and said, “You sure it doesn’t mean you’re on your own?” Speaking for how my colleague was feeling. Why she felt she needed to be out there in such weather.

A few days later the E.D. and one of the managers took me aside after a meeting and proceeded to angrily scold me about how I’m the social worker and I’m supposed to act professionally, blah, blah, blah.

She was telling me it was my job to be the model of emotional stability for everyone. When my best friend at the time, was fighting for her life in the next room, I was expected to be calm and objective.

I informed her that I was not there as a social worker, I was there as a friend. I was terrified, helpless and angry. What would she expect under those circumstances. I was acting like a human being.

Fortunately they both saw my point and backed off.

What is the point?

You, me can often put ourselves in roles that give us these false standards of how we’re supposed to show up in the world.

Standards of what emotions we can share, when, how strongly and to whom.

One of the reasons we’re so anxious is we keep second guessing ourselves. Wondering whether what we just did upset someone.

These self and socially imposed barriers to being human are suffocating. A lot of this nonsense can be cast aside.

The world needs more of the quirkiness that’s hiding.

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