A while ago I was, through a series events, thrown back into working as a physical therapist. I was looking for a voluntary job, when at the same time a friend of a friend was looking for intensive assistance with his rehab after falling down 14 meters.
Until that moment I had consciously been disconnecting from my profession for a while already. I had been annoyed by how I had to function within the system I was working in. This was affecting the way I thought about being a physical therapist in general as well. However, when I started my voluntary work, visiting my client three times a week at home, this all came around. I was enjoying my time, without time pressure, without a preconceived context, just my client and me.
Further on during our time working together I realized something important. This new way of interacting, working like a team, was as a whole the result of our own efforts. Not how an insurance company or government wants us to work together. As a result I was more relaxed, no stress and I experienced space to think. I was entirely myself, not just a physical therapist, nor somebody professional.
I realized that the professional mask was not fitting me anymore, on the contrary, it made me feel uncomfortable. One person I was during working-hours, the other outside of them. Unconsciously switching between these personalities requires a lot of energy, it was unsustainable.
I see now that being a professional was emphasized during my education. A certain attitude was required in handling people that do not seem motivated. Also, there was emphasis on how to show empathy at the right moment and how to make a person feel at home along certain lines. All of this was taught to make sure that I would be executing my task as “good” as possible. Meaning that I should be able to work with the maximum amount of clients in a preset time schedule.
In retrospect though, it seems that if I would not have learned this I would not have acted the same way. Or better, I probably would have acted differently, like I am now. Is this wrong though? It seems that teaching everybody to be professional during working hours safeguards them from not performing as expected. I know that being authentic in every situation is far more gratifying to me, and if present, another person.
Being professional is an expectation of society. However, I am convinced we were not created to interact with everybody. It is impossible to be of service to every person on the planet. Therefore, it is good there are so many people, because there will always be a match with somebody.
The fact that behaving professionally requires a split personality, might also result in abuse. It might be easier to be one or the other person. Hiding behind the professional mask might keep me clear from being confronted with myself. However, holding back certain talents in order to be “professional”, is undermining.
I do not show respect by bending the knee or rolling out the red carpet. I trust that respect, empathy and kindness are part of who I am. I feel that I do not need to wear the mask of the professional. I think nobody needs to actually. If we all decide to interact the way we feel is right we will eventually figure out the right way for ourselves. Sometimes this will be fluent and sometimes this might be confronting. Ultimately, this will lead to a sustainable way of living an authentic life regardless of context.