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Marty's "Living life in chapters" A self development blog: Reflections on 5 years in support work

Marty's "Living life in chapters" A self development blog

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reflections on 5 years in support work

Here are my thoughts about working with needy people and what I've learned in those 5 years at the hostel.

  • Fairness and equality is paramount. As human beings, we all have a certain amount of prejudice. It's important to be aware of that and to make adjustments accordingly.
  • Measure of success. As a support worker, I believe that success is not primarily about me. The success belongs to the person being supported. Ultimately, everyone has freedom of choice. I can share some advice and guidance based on my life experience and it is up to the listener to discern what is valuable in that. Everyone likes recognition for what they can achieve, but it must be measured. Whatever support we offer only plays a very small part in the success of the recipient of the support. It's far more about giving than receiving.

  • Conflicts. Well..... I've got into a few in my time, particularly in the workplace. So.... when I get offended by the actions of someone else, I wonder what it is about myself that I don't like (very likely my own behaviour) , that I see in others that offend me. I've spent a lot of time making excuses for people, but I continue to learn that it is not healthy to bottle up resentment. Letting go at an appropriate time and place is important. Ultimately, I cannot change what someone feels about me. Those feelings are owned by the other person.
  • Rules, guidelines and procedures are important, but lets not forget the motivation behind doing the work of helping people. In amongst all the details of following procedure its all too easy to lose focus on what ultimately needs to be achieved. The work is more than about ticking boxes. Real support cannot be measured on paper.
  • Supporting people also gives the supporter a degree of power. That power over someone's life must be respected and not abused. Power can corrupt and there is a famous saying that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
  • Look after no.1 Now this may seem a controversial stance, but I believe that before you can be effective in supporting someone, you need to be emotionally and physically fit enough to do so. Support work is emotionally draining and it is no use pretending it is not so. If you are prepared to take on the yoke of another, you can only carry that for so long before that burden needs to be offloaded.
  • Be yourself at all times. Consider carefully what influences there are around. Challenge that which you sense is wrong. To act out of character is so easily seen through by others. Keep a sense of humour and be prepared to laugh at your yourself for your own foolishness when it occurs.
  • Supporting people is about bringing out the best in them. We all have different abilities as granted to us at birth. It is what makes us truly unique. So.... I believe we must bring out the best in our work colleagues. If we can't do that, how can we expect to help those we are trying to support?
  • Be prepared to be disappointed when those you support let you down, but always continue to be optimistic. If you forget the optimism, then cynicism creeps in which breeds disappointment, lowers motivation and corrupts the support offered.

  • Show kindness and compassion at all times. To do anything other than that begs the question why you are in support work for the vulnerable at all.

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