The whole concept of life ownership is a curious thing. So much goes into it: What I want, value, believe, enjoy, love. Who I want in my life. Where I want to be headed. What are my boundaries. What is the dream.
Some people I’ve spoken to about life coaching are of the opinion that they know themselves pretty well. What I hear often is something along the lines of “We’re all very self-aware anyway”. But what does that actually mean?
Self-awareness didn’t work for me
My experience of self-awareness used to contain equal amounts of frustration, bafflement and feeling trapped. I was very painfully and clearly aware of myself and the limiting beliefs and behaviours going on in my relationships, my eating patterns and my career for years and years and years – without a clue over what to do with all that awareness.
I kept writing things down as they occurred and re-occurred, wondering what they mean and what I could do, but never getting anywhere further. I had a mountain of self-awareness and nowhere to go with it!
Until I gave up
On a very ordinary day towards the end of summer 2010 I finally gave up trying to sort it all out by myself. It just wasn’t happening. Now, being a very head-strong, independent person, this seemed like a very odd step to be taking. After all, this was MY life! Up until that moment I was firmly of the opinion that since it was my life and definitely no-one else’s, I should be the one sorting it out. I should own up to the mess I had made and fix it! However, the only thing I hadn’t yet tried was not doing it alone.
Amazingly, by giving up on trying to cope on my own, I actually took ownership of my life for the first time ever. I was standing up to the world, saying “You know what, I can’t do this on my own. I simply have no idea what to do next. Could I get some help here?” That’s how come I seeked out a coach for myself, and embarked on a very intensive 6-month journey to become the person I always was but I never properly acknowledged before.
There is no magic
Help – once you ask for it – is available in abundance. The mere act of admitting I needed help opened my eyes to the people and the possibilities that were available to help me understand what it was that I needed to do. Turns out I needed to accumulate a lot more awareness, to look deeper and wider, in order to work out what I wanted. What was important to me. What my dream was. From there, it was a choice of acting on it or not. Well, here I am, acting on it!
People come to coaching with all kinds of needs and wants, and what they get out of coaching is pretty much determined by what they put in. The bottom line is, you need to be willing. Everything else unfolds from there.
Words have amazing power
We form our self-image, self-beliefs and practically our whole lives according to what we tell ourselves about ourselves. Positive or negative, we soak all those words in and let them fill us and guide our lives.
I used to feel quite desperate about my life, trapped in my own choices and stuck in cycles of destructive behaviour toward myself and toward other people in my life. As part of my own journey of being coached I took a long hard look at how I use language and realised that I can be extremely harsh on myself, even abusive. I am capable of judging, punishing and slaying myself in ways that I would never ever subject anyone else to!! As a result I have put myself down for most of my life and forcefully stood in my own way.
What do you say to yourself?
It’s completely natural to sometimes feel disappointed, resentful, angry, let down, guilty or embarrassed. But what we say to ourselves in those moments has huge impact on what we think of ourselves for the rest of the time. And what about those good times, moments of happiness, success, and love? Allowing yourself to enjoy them, really feel them and appreciate them is hard for many of us.
See if you recognise any of these:
“How could I be so stupid?” “It was the worst possible thing I could’ve done” “I knew it wasn’t going to work” “There was nothing else I could do or say” “Why would anyone care for what I think?” “I’ll never get it right so what’s the point”
“That was a complete fluke” “They’ll soon figure out I don’t actually know what to do” “He’s just saying it, he doesn’t really mean it” “Yeah she says that now but just you wait” “One good thing is not going to change anything”
What we are doing by belittling our own abilities and dismissing any positivity in our life is giving away our own power to cope, to recover, to choose, to live. What we are saying to ourselves, effectively, is: I am stupid, I always do the worst things, no-one values me or my opinion, my skills don’t matter, I don’t matter.
It’s never too late to choose differently
For me, the journey from self-dismissal to self-appreciation involved growing my awareness of what I was doing, taking note of what impact it had on my own life and on everyone around me, making up my mind over if that was what I wanted, saying no to that question, and then, slowly, choosing other things to do instead, trying them out and sticking with the ones that were working for me.
Effectively, I was reconfiguring myself to be the person I would rather be. And being the sceptic that I am, I didn’t believe it would make any difference… until it did. There was a point when things just started to feel different, and be different. I was having a different impact on myself and the people around me, and I couldn’t deny it because it wasn’t going to happen, it was already happening.
Change is always possible, no matter what situation you find yourself in. And coaching is one way to achieve it by focusing not on the past but on what you want going forward.
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“Words create worlds” is something I heard a lot during my coach training from one of the trainers. This is Part 1 of a series of posts it inspired me to write. Other posts in this series: Words create worlds Part 2: Dismissing other people and Words create worlds Part 3: Minimising the problem.