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Take the superhero mask off - you're only human!

Social worker Gitana Bartkiene's timely reminder to be kind to yourself and each other ...

Gitana Bartkiene

Published by Professional Social Work magazine, 9 December, 2021

This is the time of the year where I seem to be tempted to stop and reflect on my personal and professional life. I must admit, this time I find it hard to face festive season knowing we have lost so many lives across the world.

The roller-coaster of the events following first lockdown affected all of us in one way or another. The anxiety of the unknown and a fear in the air keeps accumulating.

I am one of many seeking some balance in this intense and demanding period. Although personally the role of social worker was always a huge positive in my life, I have to admit that Covid was successful in cracking my superhero mask so many times that I had to stop to realise I am a human being and also can become vulnerable.

Unprecedented times brought so many different challenges to our work and we coped… we carry on coping, but do we stop to reflect? I guess this is the reason I decided to share my inner feelings so that we could spend more time looking after each other – and talking to each other.

This is also the time of appreciation - being able to compare how our personal and professional lives looked before Covid made me realise how much I missed busy office life, how powerful was human contact with colleagues, especially after ending a long and emotionally exhausting phone call with a client or their family. How many times did I swallow tears and carried on? I am sure you all know this feeling.

We tend to put the superhero mask on (no matter what) and to carry on without recognising the signs of burnout or choose to ignore these because our duty of care outweighs the feeling of being close to a breakdown.

This is where colleagues play a huge role by recognising the signs and helping to cope, by going beyond a polite ‘how are you?’ and being prepare to listen and offer support.

The professional relationship can be intense and challenging and this is ‘a normal’ part of our work remit. However, think (I apply this to myself mostly) before you start a forceful conversation or send a snappy email to a colleague in another department as you don’t know what impact it will have on them. Can we have challenging conversations in a mindful way?

Heading towards Christmas let’s take an opportunity to share a really powerful gift that we all have in our hands – the love and care that we can give to each other in our professional pathway.

Gitana Bartkiene is a senior social worker in a safeguarding adults team