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A Social Worker’s Reflections on a Year of Personal Growth and Healing

Written by Stephanie Underwood, RSW | Published on December 28, 2023

Unsplash image: Sunset over mountains

As a social worker who is immersed in the world of mental health, trauma, and attachment, this past year has been a profound journey in reaffirming an essential truth: social workers, therapists, psychologists, and all other mental health professionals are, at their core, human beings with their own struggles. We navigate the same turbulent seas of life as those we help. We experience our own mental health struggles, falling in love, falling apart, heartbreaks, conflict and attachment wounds. This realization breaks down barriers, fostering a deeper connection with clients and colleagues alike.

The Importance of Self-Development

This year has been incredibly important in understanding the importance of self-development and healing, not just for those we assist but for ourselves. As healers, we must first tend to our own wounds. Engaging in our healing process equips us with the empathy, strength, and wisdom necessary to guide others. It's a reminder that to pour into others, our cup must not be empty.

My journey this year has helped reaffirm a vital truth: healing is an ongoing process. Just when you think you've reached the top of the mountain, another mountains comes into view awaiting further exploration and healing. As frustrating as this can be, this cyclical process of discovery and recovery is not a setback but a profound opportunity for growth and self-awareness.

2023 Reflections

This year has been a profound journey in understanding and coping with pain, an inescapable part of the human experience. I've come to realize that pain does not have to be an anchor, dragging us down into despair. Instead, it can be a powerful motivator, pushing us towards personal development and greater resilience. Throughout 2023, I've learned to harness my pain, redirecting it into productive channels. By doing so, I've transformed it into a dynamic force, one that drives me forward, fuels my aspirations, and catalyzes positive change in my life.

In the realm of personal and professional relationships, my experiences this year have highlghted some of the complexities of human connections. More specifically, I've learned that the specific type of insecure attachment style a partner may have is not as important as their dedication to personal development and self-growth. It's less about the attachment style and more about a person's journey towards self-improvement, self-awareness, and taking responsibility for their actions and emotions. A person can have a somewhat secure attachment, but if they're not working on their personal development and are not willing to grow, their secure attachment will not have any positive impacts on their relationship.

The key to building and maintaining healthy, fulfilling relationships lies in the willingness to be vulnerable. It's about opening up, sharing our authentic selves, and being receptive to others' experiences and perspectives. Effective communication is another key variable in maintaining healthy relationships – being able to express thoughts and feelings clearly and empathetically, and also listening actively and compassionately. Moreover, taking responsibility for one's actions and emotions is crucial. It's about acknowledging mistakes, learning from them, and making a conscious effort to grow. This understanding has taught me to value the effort and willingness to grow more than the starting point of one's emotional and psychological makeup.

Letting Go

Another lesson that was reaffirmed for me this year is the truth that we cannot force others to change or see the world as we do. Each person's view of reality is uniquely shaped by their life experiences, beliefs, and personal growth journey. This diversity in perspectives is part of what makes human relationships so rich yet sometimes challenging. I've learned, sometimes the hard way, that trying to change someone's mindset or behaviour to match our own is usually an exercise in frustration. And yes, even if the person is indeed going down a very dark path. People naturally resist change that's imposed from outside, particularly if it challenges their deeply held beliefs or sense of self. Real, lasting change comes from within, sparked by a person's own desire to grow or shift their perspective.

Life itself is often the best teacher. People tend to learn most effectively through their own experiences and the consequences of their actions. These experiences, even when they involve mistakes or tough outcomes, provide invaluable lessons that advice or persuasion alone cannot convey. When we confront the outcomes of our choices, we're prompted to reflect and, possibly, make changes in our future actions.

Of course, this doesn't mean we should stop sharing our views or offering support to others. In my interactions, I strive to provide guidance and share my insights, but I've learned to detach from the outcome. It's a delicate balance — offering support while understanding that the decision to change, if at all, lies in the individual's hands.

As a social worker and counselor, I've seen firsthand the varied ways people change and grow, each at their own pace and in their own way. It's a process that requires patience and respect for each person's autonomy and journey. Recognizing that each individual is the author of their own story has been a pivotal lesson for me. It has allowed me to be a supportive presence while acknowledging that true change, if it happens, will come in its own time and form, driven by the individual's experiences and realizations.

It's also important to understand that sometimes people will not change, regardless of how many times they have to face the consequences of their own actions or behaviours. Some people remain in the same unhealthy patterns for the entirety of their lives, never changing, always remaining stagnant.

Next Chapter

This year's journey has been both challenging and enriching, offering invaluable insights into the human condition and the path to healing. As I continue to evolve both as a professional and as an individual, I am reminded of the beauty in our shared human experience. The journey is far from over, but each step brings new lessons, deeper understanding, and an opportunity to live more authentically.

As we close this chapter, brimming with its unique experiences and invaluable lessons, let's turn the page with anticipation and hope. The new year provides us with fresh opportunities and unexplored paths. In the meantime, get some rest, take care, and I shall see you in 2024 ✨

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