When we start somewhere new- be it a new job, country or role- we can find ourselves feeling invisible and unseen, or closely watched as if we are in the spotlight due to whatever way we are/feel different. We may directly or indirectly receive the message and feel the pressure that we need to prove our worth so that we can belong. These types of experiences bring a vulnerability that can be scary and disorienting. Our responses may vary… some of us may feel the need to defend ourselves and our worth and hide any vulnerability, while others of us may be quiet and/or withdraw and not own our strengths. This may even vary for each person depending on the situation and time. We know this as foreigners in foreign lands… and those of us in the helping profession are not exempt from this process. We find ourselves in the role of guide with our clients helping them to navigate this process, while it is one that we ourselves are still traveling. As an expat or non-native carer … this can be a point of strength and vulnerability. I would argue this is where the magic and power in our work lies.
Can we allow the space for both vulnerability and strength in ourselves, in our clients, and in our colleagues? We may have different baggage, physical conditions, familiarity with the terrain and may even be on different paths, yet we are all climbing mountains in life. When we are willing to explore this within ourselves, we may have more willingness to acknowledge this with our clients. Yet I often find we do not exercise this open heartedness with our colleagues. For many it may start in our training – when we are taught “to become an expert”, and we can lose touch with our humanity (seen as imperfections) and/or lose patience with the humanity of others. As we further our training and develop specializations, it can get worse. Instead of celebrating the richness of life, possibilities and paths, we can devolve into territoriality and judgment. Biases can filter how we present ourselves and how we listen to others. Can we be more open about our vulnerabilities, limitations, questions and strengths, while listening and supporting those of others? I would argue this is an untapped power and resource in our field.
In these times of social isolation, and for those of us far from our original communities, we need and deserve all the support, connection and resources we can get. None of us can do this journey up our mountains alone. As our clients are needing more support, so do we. We are all carrying more. As helping professionals, we have a unique opportunity (and I would even say an honor) to support each other in our journeys. When we fail to support each other, we make it harder for each of us to support our clients. Isolation and judgment can protect us in the short run, but hurts us in the long run. The Open Space Day is a unique opportunity to take ownership of how we share our strengths and explore our vulnerabilities so we can connect with much needed resources and growth. We hope you’ll join us on 30 April as we scale these lonely peaks together.