Tough Skin 

Criticism. 

Does anyone like it?

Even if you put the word ‘constructive’ in front of it, it doesn’t feel good to receive criticism. 

I’ve realized I’m not good at criticism. 

I internalize it. I take it personally. I carry it with me. 

And that is a dangerous thing in child protection social work. 

Because basically every conversation I have with parents involves some kind of criticism. 

You’re not working fast enough – I know. I have 30 other families that need things from me too. 

You didn’t return my call – I know. But I had six other calls to return and then an emergency happened and I ran out of time. 

You didn’t do what you said you would – I know. I forgot. Or I got busy. Or on the list of things that had to get accomplished today, that was the one that got missed. 

You’re not even doing your job – I am, but it’s not my job to work harder than you. 

You’re not letting me see my kid for no reason – except there is a reason, you just don’t want to see it. 

You’re not giving me my kid back cause you don’t like me – there may be truth there, but that’s not why. It’s because I’m not convinced your kid is safe with you. 

Social workers have tough skins. They have to, to survive in this field. They have to let the words of criticism said in anger or frustration every single day roll off their shoulders. 

My skin is still growing. 

I know there is some truth in the criticism of the parents. There are things I’m not doing, simply because I can’t. 

But words are just words. And it’s time to let them go. 

Some criticism is important. From people whose opinion matters. From people who are teaching you. 

And the rest are just words. In one ear and out the other. 

At least in theory. 

My skin will grow tough. I will let go of words. I will learn to deal with the never ending stream of criticism. 

I would like it to grow faster though…

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