the toughness within…
Most Vision Therapists aren’t exactly known for their toughness. Silly jokes, maybe. But toughness? Not so much. That might be changing though, or at the very least, some of the toughness may be seeping through. The real question to ask yourself becomes “is our toughness a good thing?”, and the answer is simple:
No. And yes.
First the easy part. Are we tough on our patients? No. We are there help, and helping usually requires as much compassion, empathy, and understanding as we can muster. Most patients have experienced the ‘toughness’ of others in the classroom and workplace, from peers and colleagues, and the reason they seek our help and listen to our words is because we come from a different place. We approach them from a different perspective. We are in tune with their respective channel and we take what they have and build on it. When you’re in the business of building people up, most days toughness is simply not a necessary ingredient.
Now for the other side of that coin. Are we tough on ourselves?
You’d better believe it.
At one point or another, we all question ourselves, especially in the VT room. Is this the proper procedure? Am I asking the right questions? Do I know enough to help this patient? All the great Vision Therapists I’ve ever met ask these questions, usually with every patient. It’s how they got to be as great as they are. At some point early on, they realized that the more they learned, the more they had to learn. For most of us, our first taste of this comes as we enter our COVT process. Will I know enough? Am I good enough? Am I ready? From there we move into the role of experienced therapist and are asked to work with more complex cases, more challenging cases, and even the cases where progress is not a foregone conclusion. Learning is part of what we do; every day and in every way. We learn from our doctors. We learn from other therapists. We learn from our patients. We learn from our mistakes. We are always learning. But what is it that keeps us thirsty? What is it that drives us to be better today than we were yesterday, and even better tomorrow? What is it that pushes us to try to wrap our heads around strabismus and amblyopia? Or to understand the importance of an AC/A ratio? What is it that makes us so tough on ourselves when we feel like we should know more?
I don’t know if I know the universal answer. For me, the answer has always revolved around toughness. I’m tough on myself because I want to be better. I cannot, and do not, accept the idea that complacency is the best way to help my patients. No matter how much you know or how much you’ve learned, there will always be that one patient that rocks your world, and gives you much more than you could ever give them. I consider those patients a gift, and a golden opportunity to learn more. To admit you’re still learning after years of experience takes toughness. What’s more, to continually push yourself beyond your knowledge base and into a sea of unknown obstacles for the sake of helping another person is admirable. A lesser soul may become complacent, but not us. We want to know. We want to learn. We want to improve. We are tough on ourselves because that’s how we will get better, and most days, it works.
So, is it good that our toughness pushes us to learn more?
Am I OK with being known by the kids for my silly jokes?
Most days 😉