One of the things that I feel like a hypocrite about is communication. I help my clients with communication ALL THE TIME. I can write an assertiveness script like nobody’s business…for someone else. Actually, I can do it for myself as well. Where it falls apart is actually using the script. I get so excited when my clients report back to me that something we came up with in session worked, but I have this crazy idea that “Of course it worked for them, but I’m DIFFERENT. Nothing can work for me.” This is a bullshit excuse to not put myself in a slightly vulnerable situation by asking for what I need. If I’m going to be an effective social worker and a happy person, I need to practice what I preach.

To be clear, I only have a problem with assertive communication with people in my personal life. When it comes to school, internships, and work, I get what I need and do not feel guilty about it. I’ve even gotten a reputation as being one of the more assertive and outspoken members of my cohort in graduate school. And if you give my clients the run-around and they are not able to speak up for themselves, you will get an earful from me and I WILL get my clients what they need.

In my personal life, however, I clam up pretty easily. I know that I have messages running through my head saying I don’t deserve things and I’m not good enough, but I’m not sure this is the real sticking point. I think I’m afraid of not getting what I need even if I ask, so I just don’t bother. Of course, if I truly need something and the other person is not willing to cooperate, then I need to reevaluate that relationship. But that can’t happen if I don’t even bother asking. Then I end up stewing and becoming resentful, which is kind of ridiculous.

Example: For the past year, I worked 40 hours/week overnight, went to school 6.5 hours per week, and did a 16 hour/week internship. I am not exaggerating when I say that it almost ruined me. My internship ended in May and I am just now beginning to feel like a real human being again. This coming school year will have me doing the same hours of classes but a 24 hour per week internship. I am totally freaking out over how I am going to survive this until May.

Meanwhile, my fiancée is working part-time, less than 20 hours per week, and doing nothing else. She states that she wants to get a full-time job so that I can possibly quit my job and find a part-time job, but her actions have not matched her words. I pay all of the bills. She has been living with me for free for the past six months, and I have been silently fuming. She has her own issues that make it hard for her to apply for jobs (depression and anxiety), but she won’t get over these things if she doesn’t try.

Today I felt like I was going over the edge. I was angry and I have been increasingly anxious about how to handle my increased workload beginning in September. Finally, I asked her, “Have you applied to any jobs lately?” She said no and looked kind of guilty. She said she would apply for some today. I went to sleep and when I woke up about six hours later, she reported that she had applied to “tons” of jobs (I could see lists she had made, so I know she wasn’t lying). She had also applied for a full-time nannying job and had already received an email back from the family wanting to talk further.

I didn’t even really have to ASK her to apply for jobs! All she needed was a little reminder and she got right on it. Times like these call for that “That was easy!” button from Staples. I should ask for things more often.

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