I keep running against this again and again, so I thought I'd post about it.
I feel paralyzed by the weight of what I say. I don't mean this in that I think my words are in and of themselves important, but when we are working, often our words come at times when parents are emotional, and sensitive. And sometimes, parents are hanging on every word when they are trying to make a decision or in a dark place. Obviously it is not always this weighty, but it often is.
I feel like I am in a time warp when I am speaking at these times, and am not my articulate self. I go home and replay conversations and kick myself for the mistakes I make or wonder if I was actually helpful to them...or if I made them feel worse. I know I do this because I really care about what I do, but I have got to get past this. It is incredibly stressful--and ironic as it is, would be doing a better job if it didn't get in my way.
The cycle is viscious. After mulling over my mistakes and words, I end up deciding that I am not cut out for this work. Usually, some form of positive feedback comes around and I come back up and decide that I am doing an OK job and I should keep on trucking.
Today I did better with a client, but got all jumbled up when I was talking to a RN/IBCLC on the phone. She was such a commanding personality and I felt so "green" that I shriveled. I got all worried about saying the right things. I tend to shrivel in the presence of other professionals, too. This part definitely seems more of a "professional self-esteem" issue. Almost like I don't trust that I "know my stuff" anymore. (Yet I know that I do!!) With other professionals, I default to words that patients/clients use unless I am super aware of it, because I feel like I sound like a fraud when I use technical terms. And I don't even mean that technical. Words like primip instead of first time mom. It's so silly. Maybe part of it is that I feel like if I sound like a professional and am wrong about something, I will look stupid? I don't know. I can't figure me out.
Anybody else been in a similar place before? What did you do to help yourself? How did you decide that you were indeed equipped to do your job and didn't worry so much about every blip or less than amazing interaction?
I can totally relate! It can take some time to move past this, as you work longer and with more families. One thing that helps me is frequent self-reminders that while my work and words are important, I don't control anything at all--I just offer what I have by way of support and information. I remind myself too, that people are smart and strong enough for this family-making business--that they have the internal resources they need to find their way...and can seek external support as well, beyond what I offer. Finally, whatever else I say to families, I make sure to add "you can get through this--you can make a good choice for yourselves. You have the strength and resources to do so--trust yourselves. I have info and opinions, but the choice is yours, and I will support you in making decisions even if I would do things differently--only you know what is best for you" I have seen this be amazingly helpful to all of us in moving through tough decisions.
It is good to take our work and our position of influence seriously! And yet we have to guard against taking too much responsibility for others....not healthy for them or us. We want them to know their own strength and trust themselves above us. We need to know the limits of our responsibility--for our own sanity as well as for the purpose of staying out of families' way in making decisions that after all, only THEY will live with. It is definitely a balancing act! But one you can get the hang of, over time. Let yourself off the hook...remind yourself as often as needed that no one's life or happiness is entirely in your hands and doesn't need to be. Remind yourself, even when families make decisions you might not make, that you did your best and so did they--and remember that our mistakes are sometimes the best, if most painful, of teachers...and that life is generally long enough to allow for further growth, making new decisions next time, life is an unfolding and what happens today may be important but it's certainly not the whole shooting match.
Funny you should mention commanding personalities and shriveling in the face of them...even now, after years of training myself to see all people as equals, working to keep my cool and self-esteem in the face of such personalities, it can still be hard to do so. For me, this is partly because I have specifically guarded against becoming THAT kind of personality! But it is specifically the kind of personality most sought by professionals in most fields--expressly because with that personality you can immediately gain control in many situations, conversations. Anyway--again, it just takes time to remain comfortable with who you are, and your own knowledge, in the face of that personality that seems to know all, and command all. They really don't! It's all smoke and mirrors. People are just people. Or as I like to imagine--just someone who, like me, has to pull down her pants to pee.
If you are sincere in your desire to help, and using all possible opportunities to learn and grow as a helper, then let yourself off the hook. Know that next year, and the year after, you will be a better and more confident provider of services...but now and always, will be a plenty good enough provider as long as you are just honest with yourself and your clients about your knowledge, skills, limitations, etc. And that sincere desire to help, the constant learning/growing, that honesty with self and others, are the most important things that serve to make you a plenty good-enough provider...which is all we have to be. Strive for excellence, but not at the cost of your sanity and good cheer--and remember to be proud of yourself even now, for being good enough.
Thank you both for this thread. So very helpful to me right now.
Thanks for your reply, MsBlack. I want to read it again when I don't have kids hanging off my body and respond. I'm glad publicizing my issues are helpful to someone else as well!
So with time and distance from my last situation, I think I am starting to wrap my head around this a little better. And what do you know, good feedback DID come my way, too! :)
I definitely already was in the "my clients make the best choices for themselves" camp, but it wasn't playing out in actuality. What I think I was putting on myself was that I have to be perfect and being afraid of leading them down the wrong path, thus making it my "fault" if the ended up regretting a choice they made. It was really a lightbulb to me to think that as long as I am giving my best, it is enough. It really is true that even if I give wrong information or just flat out say something incorrectly, they don't have to listen to me. They can choose to tune in to their own instincts and brains and figure out if what I am saying jives. I certainly disagree with some of my most favorite care providers and supporters from time to time, and even expect to. But it doesn't change my opinion of them or make me think they are bad care providers because this one time I don't want to do what they are suggesting.
Regarding those commanding personalities...what you said, MsBlack, was very helpful here, too. It *is* smoke and mirrors. And every once in a while they happen to know something, too. It is exactly the personality I don't want to become either. But in all this, I got sucked in to the smoke and mirrors, feeling inferior and all that rediculousness. I will keep on working on quiet confidence.
I just want to say something here. I am not a birth professional, in fact I am only just about to be a thrd time mama. I came across this and wanted to say; you women are AWESOME! i would have never have gotten through my pregnancies and births without your input and calm, caring, attitudes. I am so thankful for all your posts. Thank you for what you do. It is so much appreciated!