As the Founder of You Own It and a Lifestyle and Psychology Coach, I thought it was time to get vulnerable and share my story.
This story is not about fluffy ‘inspiration.’ It genuinely is about liberation and empowerment. It’s about how the council/my local authority, damaged my sense of self worth much more than my parents ever did.
I was born in Birmingham in 1987. My biological father left before I was born and my biological mother left me around the age of 4. I’m not going to go into the ins and outs because to be honest, it’s not relevant. However, I was blessed to be raised by the most two amazing individuals; my uncle and auntie and I’ll always be grateful to them.
Now as an almost qualified psychologist, one of the things that we’re quite obsessed about is childhood, and rightly so. Somebody’s childhood can affect an individual’s life forever, a miserable childhood can even affect the way somebody’s brain develops- we all have a collective responsibility to ensure children and adults can thrive!
As psychologists, we mainly look at the family unit. A lot of learnt behaviour and self worth develops within this unit. What did I learn from my unit?
– to treat others with respect and love them
– to treat yourself with respect
– to challenge yourself, raise the bar, test your own capabilities
My family have always been my cheerleaders, and thank goodness!
The ironic thing though? We had various ‘professionals’ in and out of my childhood life. Especially social services, checking up on how we were doing, offering ‘advice’ and opinions, but no real support.
I remember my uncle turning around to a social worker who came unannounced one day saying, ‘Rupy is fine, we’re fine, now let us get on with the day.’
Rather than being presented with a social worker, I now believe each disabled child should be given a psychologist to work with. Somebody who can teach them about self worth, confidence and never forgetting to love themselves – something that I perceived social services took away from me.
My perception? I don’t actually believe that social workers/managers in local authorities are bad people. They are put in a profession where there just isn’t the budget to meet everybody’s needs. And once you have been in that role for a number of years, I bet you can get numb to scenarios.
But do you see what I’ve done up in that paragraph. I’ve demonstrated understanding and empathy. Tried to see it from their side: something that they lacked with me and a whole other lot of disabled people I know. I understand that in their eyes we need to be ‘catered for’ in a ‘legal way’ to ensure the budget is spread out ‘equally and fairly’ as possible. But to them? It’s a job that they can turn off from at the end of the day. Once they’re home they can distance themselves away. But for us, it’s something that we live with. Once the budget and the hours have been set, we live within those parameters and live with the fear that if we use more budget, say, using it to go to the loo between the hours of 7-10pm, that we can be penalised. That’s the reality.
I wish the economy and the politics of this world were better. And that’s why we need to keep working together to ensure it gets better and better!
But all I ask to all ‘professionals’ is to remind yourself as to why you entered that profession in the first place. To help others. And if you know in your heart that meeting somebody’s needs is going to be difficult, then show empathy and don’t get defensive. Defensiveness damages self worth and confidence much more than you can imagine.
I could now list a whole bunch of scenarios where a lack of empathy damaged my self worth but I don’t think this blog could handle another 1000 words. However, here are some memorable things social workers/council workers have ever said to me:
Aged 11 (just started my period) – ‘we can’t provide you with support so it’s probably best you go on the pill.’
Aged 17 – ‘There’s nobody that we know of that’s managed to get into university who is also disabled. Yes, you’ve got the A’levels but why don’t you stay at home and do a learn direct course?’
Aged 21 ‘We can only fund 21 hours of support, if you want more, you’ll have to move into a nursing home.’
The list goes on, including a very flippant email that I received from a manager last week! Something which if I received a year back, would have caused me to have a meltdown.
Why haven’t I broke down? Good family, good friends and a lot of work on myself. Mainly, self care. Being compassionate to myself and loving myself. Something that Dr. Paul Gilbert has taught me through reading his work. Something that all professionals need to read if they are working with ‘vulnerable’ people.
Empathy and compassion cost nothing. Damaging somebody’s self worth can cost them their lives.
I’ve not written this blog to express my anger. Rather my concern. We have a duty of care to look after one another. We all have a CHOICE to do so. Whether you’re a professional or not. Choose your actions wisely, compassionately and empathetically.
Until next time,
(p.s. read Rupy’s previous posts by clicking here)
(p.p.s. our ambassadors are growing by the day! Check their blog posts out by clicking here)