Going deeper

I had a coaching session this week and had chosen to talk about how I want more boundaries in my life. Not set rules that govern my life, I suppose I was looking for a greater awareness of what I wanted for my life and the ability to keep to it.

One of the things I discussed with my coach is how I want to have my priorities based around what I’ve spoken to you about in the past, dear friend – close family and friends, the work I love (both coaching and my HR role) and this blog.

I shared with Helen, my coach, how I prefer spending time with those who I have a deep relationship with instead of getting together with a huge group of people and was honest with her that I think judge myself for this sometimes. Because I’m not at ease being in a large group – it’s not where I shine my best or where I feel like I can truly be myself – and I’m sometimes not ok at not being ‘the best’ in every circumstance. Because I can sometimes associate ‘not being at my best‘ with ‘not being enough‘.

But today, a day that I’m sharing with my dear friend Nadine who’s visiting me from the States, just reminds me why I prefer spending time with those I can go deep with. These 5 hours with her have passed in the blink of an eye. We’ve laughed together, shared together, dreamt of future plans and it has been blissfully easy. Deliciously uncomplicated. I’ve just been myself without doubting what I’ve said or wondering if I’m ‘enough’ for her or for me.

And so why wouldn’t I chose these types of relationships over being in a big crowd? Why wouldn’t I follow what feels right, what feels beautiful, what sets my soul alight?

And I see that it’s not a case of not being ‘good enough‘ for a big groups. It’s a personal preference to spend time in smaller groups, with people I know really well. Easy as that.

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The finished article

I’ve been wondering for a few months how my blog – this wonderful outlet for my thoughts, experiences and feelings – can co-exist with my desire to practice as a life coach.

I’ve keenly felt the tension of being honest with my struggles, openly owning my flaws and expressing that I’m not the finished article but also inspiring trust in other people that I can help them to achieve their goals.

I don’t know if there is space for me to be honest when I’m a hot mess whilst building myself up as a coaching professional with the tools, skills and experience to help others.

Sometimes the two things seem mutually exclusive, like I can either be authentic and work through my shit here (but put my coaching aspirations aside) or ‘sell’ a different version of myself that may attract clients but not be true to myself.

But it’s in reading Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong over the last few days that I’ve taken heart that I can maybe have it both ways. Both owning what I’m going through and owning who I am as a coach. You see, Brené in her book is openly honest about her struggles, and this doesn’t make me think any less of her as an academic, a person of importance on my journey or show her in a different light.

“‘I’m not enough’ is one of my go-to narratives when I’m hurt. When I’m in doubt, the “never enough” explanation is the first thing I grab. The blame story is another favourite of mine. If something goes wrong, feels bad or leaves me feeling too exposed or vulnerable, I want to know whose fault it is.” Brené Brown

If anything, reading her stories and seeing her reflect and grow and change acts like a beacon to me, it shows me that I’m not alone and it inspires the feeling I get when I’m around one of my best friends; a feeling of ‘me too!’ where I feel fully accepted, fully seen and fully loved for exactly who I am.

So yes, there may be people who read my blog and think “geez, Amy needs to get her shit together, I would never think of her coaching me” but there may be other people who think “thank goodness, finally someone who isn’t afraid of being authentic, vulnerable and real. That’s exactly who I need to coach me“. And those are the people I really want to work with – people who want to get vulnerable, who long to live a more authentic life, who are willing to step into their truth.

So I suppose what I’ve realised in writing these words to you today is that I need to keep on being real and trust in the process that the right people will be attracted to work with me.

And I’m going to take heart that I can both be my authentic self with you here, dear friend and be a boss with my coaching  because like Brené, I can’t help thinking that I’m meant to be like a beacon to others, it shows even just one person that they’re not alone and to make sure you know that you can be fully accepted, fully seen and fully loved for exactly who you are.

Want to see what having some coaching with me could do for your life? Why not take a look at my coaching information, dear friend, and get in touch with me.cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

Conscious incompetence

So, this is my third post in a day…after a week of adventuring, hiking, exploring, snorkelling and being on the go it’s been so lovely to stop and just ‘be’ for the day, and I’ve been ruminating so much with ideas and thoughts and reflections.

I also gave in and bought myself a notebook – count yourself lucky or I might have written more like 10 posts today 😜

The thoughts I’ve been having this afternoon are about my journey to becoming a life coach and how uncomfortable it can be to be a student again – trying and so often feeling like I come short of being the coach I want to be.

A coach who is comfortable and confident, able to sit with silence for long periods of time if needed, ask succinct questions (mine are always so damn long, I can’t seem to help myself!) and get tangible outcomes for those I work with.

But the truth is that I’m learning. I’m not always going to get things perfectly right and that’s ok. At least I want it to be ok!

And I’ve realised today that I’m in the space of conscious incompetence, which is what feels so icky and tricky to me. But it’s part of any true learning experience and I think it’s something we can all benefit from remembering. So I want to share the four stages of learning (of which one is ‘conscious incompetence’) with you:

The four stages of learning

Unconscious incompetence – we are in this category before we start learning something new. We are unaware of what we don’t know and so, this space can often feel exhilarating, exciting, refreshing and full of possibility. It doesn’t matter that we have no mastery over the subject area (whether learning to play the guitar or take on studies for a change in career), the future is full of possibility.

Conscious incompetence – once we start learning, we are faced with just how much we are going to have to learn and how far a journey we’ve got to go to get to the point of mastery. Even if we are naturally gifted at what we’re learning, we are still aware that we aren’t fully competent and this stage in the learning journey can be uncomfortable, disheartening as we see how far we have to go and sometimes it can seem easier to give up than to keep on going and persevere.

Conscious competence – if we hang on in there, use our tenacity and grit and keep on learning, we will get to the point of slowly having moments of competence. Moments where we manage to play a whole song on our guitar, master a technique we’ve been studying, get some of the results we’re looking for. The timeframe may differ depending on the level of difficulty, but if we keep on trying, we’ll get there. To moments where we’re aware that we’re doing not that bad and are achieving at what we’re aiming for.

Unconsciously competent – this is the sweet spot I want to hit. The moment we’re able to perform with no real thought or effort. When we’ve integrated what we’ve learnt and it flows easily.

It’s good to remember this learning journey as it reminds me that it’s precisely that – a journey where I can’t expect to get everything right.

It also gives me heart that I will get there – finally, one day, to a space where I’m able to be the coach who is comfortable and confident, able to sit with silence for long periods of time if needed, ask succinct questions and support those I work with to get tangible outcomes for themselves.

So I’ll keep on going with my conscious incompetence and take heart at the moments where I think “you know what, I did something good here” and trust that the learning journey will continue and I will get there with time.

If you’d like some support on your learning journey, why not contact me to see what coaching could do for you. Since I’m a coaching student – still learning myself – I have an introductory coaching offer.

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Wholehearted living

As I’ve shared on a previous post, I’m currently reading Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong and want to spend a few minutes considering one of the ideas that she shares and has stayed with me since I read it:

“I think many of us move through this world feeling [fractured, disjointed, disowned, detached, unraveled or separate]. The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or acceptable, but our wholeness – even our wholeheartedness – actually depends on the integration of all our experiences, including the falls.”

Geez, she’s a wise lady. I truly believe what she’s written – it’s in owning our whole story, not just our perfect moments – that we can live wholehearted lives. Where we know we’re enough, truly worthy of love and belonging just as we are.

What I’m struggling to integrate is that I feel so damn much in life and have so many moments of imperfection due to the fact that I’m so self-aware and sensitive. If I show myself, if I integrate all my experiences, I’ll be a hot mess most of the time. I’ll show how little I have my shit together and that feels scary, vulnerable and raw.

To be honest, it sometimes feels like I’m living the following equation:

I have heightened emotions + the world says displaying deep emotons is unacceptable = I’m unacceptable

I’m not saying this in a ‘poor me’ way. Part of me thinks ‘fuck the world, this is who I am’ but another part of me asks how I can be me and feel fully seen when the person who I am feels sometimes so unacceptable. And so, if I’m honest with you, dear friend, I often temper who I am to be more acceptable. Not becoming someone different but leaving the details of my life out from face-to-face interactions.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always feel unaccepted but at this moment, reading Brené’s words, I’m left pondering how I can integrate my deep emotionality in a world that appears so ill at ease with feelings.

I suppose part of the solution is continuing to do what works for me:

  • Spending time with close friends who make space for and accept my feelings.
  • Leaning into the amazing work I’ve been privileged to be part of in my organisation, which is all about being real and authentic leaders, bringing our true selves to the workplace.
  • Continuing to be coached so I can better learn how to accept myself and integrate my feelings, experiences and emotions into my life.

And perhaps it’s like the approach I’m taking to my maternity leave – sharing it 50:50 with my husband so we both take 6 months off to care for our baby. We’re doing this because it’s right for us as a couple but also because unless people lead the way in sharing the full child rearing responsibilities, things will never change and it will always be the women’s role*.

Unless I show up wholehearted, sharing my whole stories and experiences in life, things will never change. I can take steps to be wholeheartedly me because it’s the right thing to do but also because I long to lead the way to a world where it is acceptable to be messily, imperfectly, beautifully human. To be our true, wholehearted selves.

And the idea of this being a reality in my life, a reality in the world, is so worthwhile. It makes me feel so excited to think of a world where the following is true:

We are all accepted as being unique and having differing levels of emotions + we know we are enough exactly as we are = we all experience deep feelings of acceptance, belonging and joy

With this in mind, I’m willing to dive into the world of wholeheartedness. I’m willing to see where it takes me to not just to find my way in this world but to create a world I long to live in.

*I know this is a generalisation and wanted to salute all the couples I know who share the childcare and all the men who have taken a step back in their careers to look after their children. But for the most part, it’s women who do most of the childcare and take on larger caretaking responsibilities around the house and unless we change things, it will always be this way.

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Resonance

Sorry, dear friend, in advance of all the posts I’m most probably going to write whilst I’m away on holiday.

I usually bring a notepad away with me to dream and ponder and plan and hope but when I was in the shops pre-holiday, I asked myself ‘do I really need a new notepad?’ and I found myself saying ‘no’ in line with my new found ‘do I really need it‘ philosophy.

I’ve got some paper so I can do some lone contemplation but I’m probably going to write down and share a lot of my thoughts here, which I hope is ok with you…and at this very moment I want to share how I’m really feeling a resonance of some words I’m reading in a book by Brené Brown called Rising Strong. It’s a book with the premise that if we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall. This book gives an exploration of how we might rise again when we find ourselves face down in the dirt, having tripped, stumbled and fallen whilst trying to live a life of true authenticity.

The three sentences I want to share with you from her book called out so deeply to me. They push and challenge me to keep on going with my journey of finding more courage, truth and love in my life because they are where I long to be:

“Wholehearted living is engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am brave and worthy of love and belonging.”

If I could bottle up my aspiration for my life, and that for the people I love (you included, dear one), it would be that we live wholehearted lives. That we know deep inside us that we are enough, worthy of love and belonging.

The tricky thing for me to grasp my head around is how we can just be worthy as an inherent trait. Like Déscarte’s ‘I think, therefore I am’, should I feel ‘I am, therefore I am worthy’?

I want to believe this, yet it challenges the very way I have lived my life for so many years…feeling only as worthy as what I do for people…and how I quite honestly don’t think that others are worthy of my love and friendship just as a fact of being. I mean, there are some people I don’t like (because we have nothing in common, I don’t share their values and principles) and there are some people who don’t like me (because I have nothing in common with them and don’t share their values and principles).

I suppose writing these words down makes me realise that there are other questions that rise up in me – whose love and belonging is it that makes me enough?

And suddenly I sense an ‘aha!’ moment.

Could it be that I’m basing this enoughness, this love, this acceptance of belonging on external people when really the true measure is that I’m meant to base it on is myself?

Could it be that I’m enough for myself and that’s all that matters? Worthy of my own love? Worthy of my own acceptance and belonging?

Could this be enough for me?

I want to wait and let these thoughts ruminate and percolate…and I’ll let you know what comes of this mindset shift.

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Weakness or courage

I shared with you recently how vulnerable and bruised I felt at my coach training weekend where I broke down in tears in front of my peers.

I’ve been mulling this experience over for a few days now and reflecting on what one kind person in my class reached out and shared with me:

When we share the deep, hard things going on for us with other people, we feel we’re being weak. Especially if we show emotion, like I did when I couldn’t hold it together in front of my class.

We assume that other people will find us weak and wanting and will judge us for not having the strength to cope, to be ok, to manage by ourselves.

However, when we see someone sharing something hard, grappling with difficulty, admitting their flaws and doing their best in the place that they are, we see them as being courageous.

Having the courage to show up, to not pretend that ‘they’re ok‘, the courage to name what they’re struggling with.

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And when I heard these words, I felt fully seen, fully supported, fully accepted by that individual and by my class. I was able to let go of the shame – the feelings that I was somehow flawed for feeling as I did, for struggling as I was.

It was a beautiful feeling.

One that I want more of in life.

So let us fully connect and be real with each other. Share our highs and our lows, our struggles and our triumphs. And know that by being fully ourselves and owning our truth, we are not being weak, we are showing true courage.

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A wave of emotions

I’m in London this weekend studying my third module towards my transformational coaching diploma (all about being present in the moment) and, if I’m honest, I’m feeling a bit raw from the session yesterday.

The weekend didn’t start with me feeling super pumped and full of energy to get going. As I’ve shared in a recent post, I’m feeling a bit stretched and know I need to readjust to get a better balance in life. But the day was really thought provoking and insightful and I got a lot from it.

In the afternoon our teacher suggested he could do a demonstration in how to hold space in a coaching session, working in the here and now, being completely available and letting go of the need to ‘fix’ anything. All the things that he had been exploring during the day. He asked for someone to step forward to volunteer as a coaching client and after a few moments of silence, I volunteered.

And oh gosh, I didn’t expect what was going to happen.

He asked me what I wanted to talk about and I shared how some changes in my life are making me feel quite anxious. I feel myself projecting into the future about so many things – ‘what will happen with X, will I be good enough, what if I’m not able to cope…?’. I also find myself being pulled back into the past as I ruminate and dwell on the lack of control I’ve had in certain areas of my life.

And suddenly as I explored these areas, I found myself breaking down in tears in front of the class. The strength of the emotions I felt shocked and surprised me, like being unexpectedly bowled over in the sea by a powerful wave.

And with the surge of emotions, out surfaced so many of my old negative thoughts that I felt I’d let go of long ago:

  • The need to be in control of everything
  • Wanting the acceptance of others and thinking I need to be perfect to get it
  • Needing to be the strong one that people go to for help, not the one who needs help
  • The fear of showing my flaws or reaching out for help
  • The belief that I’m broken and need fixing

I don’t have the answer to how I can remove these limiting beliefs, although I know that I’d like to release and no longer be bound by them.

I suppose part of the answer is accepting that this is where I am and allowing myself to just be here, now, in the moment.

I also know that part of it is reaching out to other people and saying that I need some help –  a bit more tender treatment and support as I go through this bumpy part of my life.

And perhaps it’s letting myself stay in the mess instead of scurrying to put myself back  together. Mulling over the thoughts that I have around perfection, feeling ‘broken’, being strong, showing my flaws.

So thanks for being on this journey with me. I know it’s not always pretty and light, but I know it’s the most important journey I can take on life and it’s easier for having you by my side.

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The other person’s story

I was in a training course at work today. It was a really fascinating day; looking at the planet and what we can do as an organisation and as individuals to increase our environmental sustainability.

As part of the course, we were asked to share what sustainability meant to us and I shared that I was vegan mainly because so many other areas of my life are so unsustainable. Filled with luxuries that I know are bad for the environment – a car, regular trips abroad and so much more. One of the ladies in the course suddenly said “I feel sorry for you because you think you’re doing well being vegan but your diet is probably really high in palm oil and coconut oil which is really bad for the environment”.

My ego stung so much from this verbal attack. I didn’t see where it had come from – I’d not passed judgement at her meat eating habits and couldn’t understand why she had been so vocal in her opinion of me.

It wasn’t until the afternoon that I gained a bit of clarity about where she was coming from.

We were talking about what culturally would need to change in order for the organisation to become sustainable and one person said that we need to get better at hearing people’s views in the organisation. I added to this saying how hard it is generally to hear other points of view without being defensive and shared how my first response to the comment about palm oil had been one of outrage instead of curiosity.

For I knew in truth that what she was saying was right – palm oil isn’t sustainable and it’s causing destruction of large areas of forest. But hearing her criticising my lifestyle so openly had stung and hadn’t left me able to hear her message – I only heard judgement.

And then she opened up. “I got defensive because I work alongside so many vegans and they’re constantly judging me about eating meat. I eat organic and do my part, but it’s never enough.” 

And just like that, I could feel her pain. I understood what she had heard when I shared that I was vegan – judgement. Of her, her lifestyle, her choices.

And suddenly her cutting comment about my lifestyle didn’t matter so much. I felt her pain, I witnessed her isolation, I understood where she was coming from.

It reminded me that most confrontation or disagreement is never really about us. It’s really about the other person and it’s really about their story. And knowing that is really empowering and liberating.

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A matter of the heart

I was having a conversation with my husband last night and it got a tad heated. Poor my mum who was sitting in the middle of us whilst it was going on, although to be fair she asked the question that provoked the ‘debate’.

It was about whether we would raise a child with a vegan diet or not. This is important because I’m a fairly committed vegan and have been for a while now. My choice is driven by my thoughts about how the mass animal farming industry has many cruel aspects to it and my views about how it’s kinder to the planet to not consume animal products.

Gregg mostly goes along with my preference regarding food because he doesn’t have strong views and since I cook the majority of our food and bake enough cakes to satisfy his pudding needs, it generally it works out well for us. He might have the occasional piece of meat when it’s reduced in the supermarket and he buys dairy yogurts I’m guessing because they’re cheaper than the soy alternative, but apart from that we’re both mostly vegan.

And so I can’t even start to imagine feeding my child all the things that I don’t consume myself.

Just when things were getting nasty in our conversation and the ice queen in me was coming out, my mum said something that made really great sense and cooled the conversation down –

“this isn’t a head discussion for you, Amy, it’s a matter of the heart”

And I could see that this was true. It wasn’t an argument that I could enter into calmly and come to some sort of compromise because it’s close to my heart, part of my moral values. And whilst I live alongside Gregg and respect his eating choices and can be ok with my child making his own choice one day about what he wants to eat, it hurts to contemplate raising a child outside of my ethical boundaries. Because it’s wrapped up in so much more than just food choices:

  • Guilt in bringing a child to this earth when it is already so over populated and the impact on the planet of having children is so high
  • Concern about the future of our planet and bringing a child into a world that may suffer from severe water shortages and a rise in natural disasters
  • Feeling torn about trying to lead a life with as minimal an impact on the planet as I can, but already compromising my beliefs in order to travel the world and start a family.

So where does this leave me?

Hopefully not with you thinking less of me for having strong views about my lifestyle that may not be akin to your own. I am who I am and I respect that you are who you are, dear friend.

Maybe I’m writing this in the hope my husband will understand just a little bit more where I’m coming from and will be willing to support me with this choice and this matter of the heart. Maybe it’s to try to come to peace with some of contradictory feelings I have about becoming a mother and living a kind life. Or maybe it’s about finding a way of moving forward with this matter of my heart.

Whatever it is, it’s good to surface these feelings and to start to work through them to find a way forward.

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Doing my best

As part of my studies to become a transformational coach, I’ve started to have some coaching myself. This is so that I can personally see the benefits of coaching in my life and to learn more about the coaching process as a participant.

I had my first session on Wednesday night and what I learnt from the process touched me deeply. I want to share this experience and what I learnt with you if that’s ok, dear friend.

Before I started my session, I wrote down what I wanted to get from the coaching process and decided that the main aim was about how I can become more comfortable in situations of conflict and in times where I need to challenge someone, be it at work or in my personal life.

We started by talking about how I shy away from conflict and what this was really about.  I soon discovered that it wasn’t about wanting to step up and become an authoritarian leader who commands what people do. That’s not who I am or how I want to be as I progress in becoming someone with influence at work and in my personal life.

So what was the problem about conflict that made me identify it as an area that I wanted to work on? And how do I want to be with situations of conflict going forward?

I was unsure at the start but after some questioning, I started to build an understanding of why conflict is such a big thing for me…it’s because I’m trying to protect myself from experiencing any discomfort. Conflict, which makes me feel very anxious, is a prime example of what I want to protect myself from.

Whenever I hear people arguing or there’s a moment of uncomfortable silence or I think I might have upset someone, it’s like alarm bells are ringing in my head, blaring “resolve it, stop it, distract from it!” Because it’s uncomfortable to be in that space of tension and animosity. To not know where I stand.

I then started to think how I’ve coped with these feelings in the past before – how I’ve protected myself. And I connected immediately to my past issues with eating.

  • Starving myself as an anorexic to stop feeling difficult emotions and experiences.
  • Bingeing as a compulsive eater to push down my feelings of discomfort.
  • Distracting myself and others from situations of conflict as I currently do.

And you know what, although I don’t want to distract and ‘protect’ myself by running away from conflict or discomfort for the rest of my life, I could see in that moment that I’m doing the best with what I’ve got.

Doing the best with what I’ve got

What sweet, sweet words of kindness I heard coming out of my mouth. Recognition that life is tricky. That I’m trying to find my way as best I can. That it’s ok to not constantly toil away for perfect resolution but to acknowledge how far I’ve come and how I am doing my best.

I felt in that moment that ‘my best’ is enough.

Perhaps not enough for forever – I’d like to be able to experience conflict one day without feeling the need to distract, to resolve or stop the situation – but enough for now.

I’m doing the best with what I’ve got and it feels so beautifully gentle and generous to tell myself this.