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The Doula Dilemma: Why Feeling Like an Outsider is More Common Than You Think

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

Doula hiding half her face behind a green leaf.

In the world of doulas, where the essence of our work revolves around connection, support, and understanding, it can be particularly challenging when we feel like outsiders. The sensation of being overlooked or not included can be disheartening, especially in a profession where collaboration and community are vital. If you've ever felt this way, you're not alone. Let's delve into some potential reasons behind these feelings and ways to navigate them.

Past Experiences Shape Our Present

Our past plays a pivotal role in shaping our perceptions. If you've ever felt excluded or overlooked in previous roles or personal situations, those memories can resurface in your current role as a doula. It's essential to recognise these patterns and understand that past experiences don't define your present or future.

The Role of Self-Esteem

Our self-worth and self-esteem influence how we interpret others' actions. A doula with wavering self-confidence might perceive a lack of invitations to group meetings or workshops as a personal slight, even if it's unintentional. Regular self-reflection and self-care can bolster our self-esteem, ensuring we approach situations with a positive mindset.

Diverse Communication Styles

Communication is the cornerstone of a doula's work. However, everyone has a unique communication style. Some doulas are more direct, while others might be more passive or prefer written communication. Recognising and adapting to different communication styles can prevent misunderstandings and feelings of exclusion.

Dynamics of the Doula Community

Like any profession, the doula community can have its cliques or naturally formed groups. If you're new to the community or have a different approach, it might take time to find your tribe. Remember, every doula brings a unique perspective and value, and there's a place for everyone.

Cultural or Background Differences

The doula community is beautifully diverse, with individuals from various cultural, ethnic, and personal backgrounds. While this diversity is a strength, it can sometimes lead to feelings of being an outsider, especially if there are cultural nuances or practices you're unfamiliar with. Embracing continuous learning and open dialogue can bridge these gaps.

The Trap of Overthinking

Doulas are empathetic by nature, which can sometimes lead to overanalysing situations. If a fellow doula didn't reply to a message or you weren't tagged in a community post, it might not be a deliberate oversight. Before jumping to conclusions, take a step back and assess the situation objectively.

The Need for Recognition

Acknowledgment is a fundamental human need. If you've been working hard, supporting families, and contributing to the community, but haven't received the recognition you hoped for, it's natural to feel overlooked. Consider seeking feedback and remember that every doula's journey is unique. Your impact is felt, even if it's not always vocalised.

The Influence of Peri-Menopause and Menopause

For many doulas, the journey through peri-menopause and menopause coincides with their professional lives. This significant hormonal transition can bring about a myriad of emotional and physical changes. Fluctuating hormone levels can lead to mood swings, anxiety, and feelings of disconnect.

In a profession where emotional stability and connection are paramount, these changes can sometimes lead to feelings of inadequacy or the sensation of being an outsider. It's not uncommon for doulas navigating menopause to feel more sensitive to perceived slights or exclusions.

Moreover, in a community where the focus is often on birth and the beginning of life, menopause – a symbol of a different kind of transition – might feel overlooked or undervalued. It's essential for the doula community to recognise and honour this phase of life, offering support and understanding to those navigating it.

Navigating the Feelings of Exclusion

Feeling like an outsider isn't a permanent state. Here are some strategies to navigate these feelings:

  • Open Dialogue: Initiate conversations with fellow doulas. Sharing your feelings can provide new perspectives and strengthen community bonds.

  • Seek Mentorship: Consider finding a mentor within the doula community. Their guidance and support can be invaluable in navigating professional challenges.

  • Engage in Continuous Learning: Attend workshops, webinars, and conferences. Not only will this enhance your skills, but it will also provide opportunities to connect with like-minded professionals.

  • Celebrate Your Unique Value: Every doula brings something special to the table. Recognise your strengths and celebrate them!

In conclusion, feeling like an outsider is a sentiment many doulas, and professionals in general, experience at some point. By understanding the potential reasons behind these feelings and actively seeking connection and growth, we can foster a more inclusive and supportive doula community.

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