You are not a superhero.

This summer makes 15 years of working with children, young people and community members. Many of my conversations recently have been with younger youth workers/practitioners or those ready to begin a career in the youth violence sector; a lot of whom wishing to start their own projects or have become leaders within their own rights. Today I write humbly, with compassion and in service to you, in hopes with my years of experience I can gift lessons that you need not learn the hard way.

You are not a superhero. We also do not need you to be one. You are not responsible for the health and well-being of every young person and/or community member in your area. You are responsible for you and you only.

There is this myth in the  youth violence sector, which probably overlaps with many other sectors, that as youth workers or practitioners we are suppose to dedicate our lives to a cause, never make much money, be these great and marvelous human beings and that everything we do is always successful. This is bullshit.

You do not need to be the embodiment of greatness. In fact, to believe that you are or should be, will damage you because these are unrealistic expectations. There are a few other myths I wish to expel for you:

  1. A lot of people who run social enterprises or youth focused charities/business etc have a normal full-time or part-time job. There is absolutely nothing wrong or shameful about that. In most cases it’s completely normal.
  2. Being a good person and doing something with purpose does not mean you have to be broke. Making money from helping others does not make you a sell out, you are allowed to feed yourself and if you not making enough money to feed yourself, see point 1.
  3. Clinical Supervision and/or therapy does not mean you are weak, damaged or broken; that you do not know what you are doing or in fact anything negative. It will give you more understanding of self, which in turn will make everything you do better and sometimes even easier!
  4. You’re not suppose to do it alone. If your team are going through their own things, do not feel the need to take on everyone else’s roles and responsibilities. Sometimes work just doesn’t get done, learn to be okay with that.
  5. These young people we work with are going to do stupid things, they’re going to hurt themselves and each other, it’s the nature of the work, you cannot be responsible for all of their actions. That anxiety you feel everyday doing this work, waiting to be told someone is dead or in jail, that shit will burn you out. Talk to someone about it – you are not alone.
  6. Take sometime for you. Stop working 24/7, learn to process your own emotions and feelings. This is a direct instruction from me to you. We will talk about this further in another blog.
  7. Any mentor that takes credit for your work or tells the world they mentor you, is probably not someone who you want around.
  8. AND AGAIN: You do not need to be great at what you do, take the expectations off yourself. Aim for being normal. This is a journey of constant learning.

Most of us have ended up working in this sector due to the pain and trauma we have experienced in our own childhood, we work through that pain by helping others who are the physical embodiment and representation of our own internal struggle.

For too many of us work has become or became a way of escaping the anxiety and shame that burns deep within us, it is our way of channeling our anger and hurt into something we can control and manage. Although we may feel we are getting a lot done and in many cases, we really do, this is still a ever present reality in the youth violence sector that we need to take some ownership of.

So to those of you just starting out, or young but starting to feel the burden of burn out… dam even to the rest of you who have resonated with the things I have said, it’s time to breathe, rest and reflect. You are not a superhero and we do not need you to be.

 

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I use my own experience in the field, along with the knowledge I have gained and unique individual perspective of the world to add something new to the dialogue. This blog is my own personal opinion on a subject and of course, I could be wrong.

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