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  • Writer's pictureErin Johnson

Is Working Harder the Answer?

Updated: Nov 4, 2022


I asked my female friends, who are teachers, social workers, foster caretakers, and moms, what the biggest struggle is for women in these roles. The unanimous answer was that there are just too many tasks to manage on their to-do list: paperwork, expectations, needs, social standards, and other responsibilities. This burden is depleting, and they feel unable to show up for the kids they work with in the way they'd like.


So how do we stay fueled to meet the demands of the systems we work within, the desperate needs of our youth, and our own needs and desires?


Do we need to work harder?


My friend, Sara, a Social Worker, said she started to realize she was expected to make her own personal mental and physical health AND her own child and husband secondary to the children and families she served in her role as a Social Worker. One day she realized that she had 50 kids on her caseload that she was being asked to effectively manage when she was supposed to have no more than 24. She felt victim-shamed when supervisors asked her if she was practicing self-care after she vocalized her needs and attempted to create boundaries. The underlying message she received was that not only was she failing at her job, but she was also failing at self-care.


After she voiced her concerns with her supervisors, she hoped for more supportive questions like, "How does that make you feel?" "What does your day look like?" "What are some solutions you see?"


When Sara gave herself space and time to reflect on these questions, she began to form awareness around a level of false identity, or "WHO" she believed herself to be and how that shaped her experiences, expectations, and an underlying sense of what she deserved to have (or not have), behaviors, and choices.


Her False Identity: "I'm Not Enough."

  • She worked extreme overtime hours out of a sense of obligation rather than because it brought her joy.

  • She was living an existence to please others and was chronically self-sacrificing.

  • She could not be satisfied with her performance because of her focus on other people's needs and systematic standards of success.

  • Her perfectionistic habits contributed to the problem, as she was placing her desire to help others over her sleep, rest, enjoyable activities, and, most importantly, family.

  • She allowed these burdens to exhaust her through chronic stress and insomnia.

Her Belief About Others


  • They don't value me.

  • They expect more from me than others.

  • They want more from me than I can realistically give.


Her Gifts

  • She deeply cares about the youth and families she works with, is profoundly generous, always has enough to share, and gives freely.

  • She is competent, intelligent, and talented at helping even the most complex cases, so her supervisors gave her more of these cases than most of her colleagues. She was hearing, "Sara can handle this."

Her Deeper Truths

  • She cares deeply about her own happiness and satisfaction and can prioritize her own well-being, spend time with her family, and do enjoyable activities.

  • She cannot possibly meet all of the needs of the youth and families she works with and is not responsible for their happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment. Rather than reflecting on her, it reflects global, systemic issues and the community's growing needs.

  • Her presence (more than what she does or does not do, who she helps or does not help) is a blessing to all.

Skills to Cultivate

  • Gifting herself time and space to become more aware of her feelings, needs, and desires.

  • Learning to say "no" and creating healthier boundaries.

  • Giving to herself first before giving to others.

  • Learning to ask for and accept more support from others.


Working hard is a valuable quality, yet it is not the answer.


It is self-awareness and having the skills and capacities to support our well-being that will give us the resilience to more purposefully and effectively impact the lives we long to enrich.




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