In last month’s column, I asked you to reflect on why you answered the call to be a counselor, leader and advocate. I challenged you to use the following reflection questions to see whether you are expanding your knowledge and skill set to best answer this call to be a leader and advocate within the counseling profession:
- Are you currently fulfilled and passionate about your role in leadership, advocacy or the counseling profession?
- Are you continuing to develop and learn new skills that will aid in future leadership, advocacy and professional opportunities?
I want to expand on this reflection in this month’s column and look closely at the cost and consequences of answering that call. I decided to write on this topic after talking with a colleague who shared that one of their counseling students thought that they would get exactly what they wanted through self-advocacy and didn’t expect that there would be challenges or obstacles involved with advocacy. Many people also don’t understand that advocacy outcomes can take time to achieve, and there will be times when you do not get exactly what you advocate for but instead get a byproduct of your advocacy efforts. And sometimes you may not be able to see or enjoy the benefits yourself, but the ones who come after you will receive the benefits. This statement stuck with me because many of my other colleagues expressed similar experiences with not only their students but also other colleagues who mistakenly believed that they were allies even though they had not been identified as an ally by those they advocated for or that their assertive behavior was helpful when it was actually microaggressive against the very community which they sought to advocate for.
Answering the call of being a counselor, leader or advocate comes at a cost — one that counselors often do not factor into their decision to answer this call. The cost of being in the counseling profession sometimes includes the following:
- It’s an ongoing process that requires constant self-reflection and honesty about your own skills and abilities.
- It often requires many resources to elevate, cultivate and grow your skills (e.g., training, self-counseling), which can be expensive.
- You may have to navigate other people’s motives that are not truly about being a counselor, leader or advocate but rather are about political positioning, social positioning, vita/resume building, etc.
- Moving further up the ladder of counseling, leadership and advocacy does not diminish the microaggressions, uncivil behavior and misogyny that will be done to you and those around you. This occurs in every profession, and the experts who are writing books and doing research on these topics may also be the ones who are committing these offenses.
- It can mean personal time lost with family, significant others and friends who are not connected to the counseling profession or the cause you are advocating.
- There is a personal toll associated with opening yourself and your life up to others. Sometimes it can feel like there is no support, and other times it’s overwhelming, especially for those who are introverts by nature.
With so many costs associated with being a counselor, leader and advocate, how do you protect yourself and continue to pursue your calling and passion?
- Be honest with yourself about whether you can manage and accept the cost for answering the call.
- Surround yourself with friends and family who love you — the whole person you are. This will help you ground yourself outside the work associated with the call of counseling, leadership and advocacy.
- Take time for your wellness and self-care to recharge yourself and the person you are outside of the things that you are called to do.
Continue your journey in pursuing your life’s work through self-reflection and self-investigation. This month, I challenge you to reflect on the costs associated with answering the call of counseling, leadership and advocacy. Be honest in your reflection and think about how you will cultivate the things needed to protect yourself from the cost of answering the call and pursuing your life’s work. Until next month!