We welcome Guest Blogger, Kelly LaVallie to the Dear LiL blog as she provides her insights around why self-care and boundaries aren’t selfish but necessary strategies to ensure we remain resilient and better able to assist our clients.
I recently found Life in Law and thought that my experience with serving clients who are going through difficult times would be helpful to the LiL community. I had a corporate accounting practice for over 20 years. I can’t remember any of my clients crying during a meeting. Now I have a divorce advisory practice and I keep tissue handy. Regardless of the specific circumstances, divorce is hard. I can count on zero fingers the number of clients who’ve sailed through the process without grief, or anger, or fear. All of my clients are in need of emotional support as well as technical services.
Helping my clients work through tough times is more fulfilling than minimizing corporate tax bills. Fulfilling work is, well, fulfilling, and I wouldn’t trade it. But it comes at a price. It is harder to “leave it at the office”. It requires a mind, body, and spirit commitment that can be draining. For those of us providing professional services for clients experiencing tough times, especially as women with a pile of other responsibilities on our plates, we need strategies to avoid burn out. Strategies to ensure that we set ourselves up for success in all aspects of our lives. We want to arrive home from work able to be the person we want to be for ourselves and our families instead of wrapped up in what we dealt with at work that day.
Strategy #1: Clear Boundaries
We care about our clients. We empathize with them. But we can’t make their issues our issues. When we find ourselves moved by a particular situation and pour our energy into being helpful and providing a service, we must remember that the situation isn’t about us, it’s about them. To allow us to care and empathize for the long-term we must set boundaries. For me, focusing on service keeps my attention on my client and off of myself. Instead of imagining how I would feel in their situation, I explore how they are feeling, and I invest myself in addressing their needs. That is my key to preserving clear boundaries.
Boundaries don’t prevent caring and empathizing they allow us to remain resilient and provide the best service to our clients.
Strategy #2: Self Care
To some, this may sound a bit airy-fairy, but I believe that our bodies and souls soak up our surroundings. And that means, even with clear boundaries, we are impacted by our clients’ struggles. I’ve always put more emphasis on mind than on body or soul. But I’m learning how to tune in when my body and soul are in need of my attention. For me, that might mean fewer hours in the office, or longer hikes, or visits with my sister who always lightens my load. For somebody else, this will look completely different, but the point is, that self-care isn’t selfish.
Self-care means we’ll be able to serve our clients for the long-term.
Strategy #3: It Takes a Village
Given the confidential nature of our work, we can’t indulge in specific shoptalk. Still, it is helpful when we can share with colleagues when we are struggling under the weight of our clients’ hardships. The special sort of understanding that we receive from our fellow professionals who have a shared experience bolsters our strength and reminds us that we don’t have to shoulder it all alone.
You are not weak or unprofessional if you are impacted by your clients’ challenges. You are caring and empathetic. You are human. In professional services, caring deeply for our clients is powerful and often equally as important as our technical service. It is not our goal to stop caring deeply for our clients. Our goal is to care deeply for ourselves and for our clients.
About the Author
Kelly LaVallie is a CPA, CA, CDFA with a divorce consulting practice in Vancouver, BC. She provides accounting and financial advisory services for people navigating complex divorce. You can find out more about Kelly at LaVallie & Associates.