An interesting thing happened on the way to my new life…
I had moved from New Mexico to Washington State and I had the opportunity to reinvent myself. I took the opportunity with both hands and I began the transformation from Therapist to Coach. As it often happens with any change, it hasn’t been exactly comfortable. As I shifted gears, (visualize a big boat turning… slowly) I found that I didn’t exactly know how to even think of myself in different ways. I was comfortable in my old story of myself and the reinvention forced me to think, a lot, about how to describe myself, what I do, who I work with, or even what exactly I was passionate about. I didn’t want to seem wishy washy, but I was going through various ideas of myself and descriptions, like trying on outfits at the mall. I am a Therapist, I am a Coach, I am a Life Coach, I am a Business Coach, I am a Leadership Coach… I was trying on niche labels like trying on jeans. Some looked ok, but didn’t feel right; others just didn’t fit at all.
I have a very good friend who is a Business Coach and I admire her. I thought to myself I have had a business since 2004, I understand business systems, I have done a lot of marketing, and I have a lot of training that supports businesses. I have designed team building trainings. Yet, I wasn’t really resonating with the idea of calling myself a Business Coach. Calling myself a Therapist seemed easier when I began my private practice 11 years ago because people seem to know what “Therapist” means. There is a issue with Coaching in that everyone on earth seems to want to be a Coach, trainied or not. So, I was told I have to differentiate myself from the Coaching masses and in ways that as a Therapist I didn’t feel that I had to. So, what does the label/niche really mean? What are the words that resonate and empower you to communicate clearly who you are and what you do? And, how does one traverse the journey of personal discovery that you have to navigate as you go?
The point of sharing my identity crisis…
A friend asked me why I felt the need to call myself a Business Coach instead of a Life Coach or some other type of coach? I responded, “Because I thought it sounded better…”. We both started laughing. I am person who works with people to find their authentic voice and there I was doing just the opposite. The huge take away for me was that it is easy to get sidetracked when you are discovering yourself. Our brains want to be in some sort of comfort zone, and at times we might be willing to slap a label, any label, on ourselves just to be done. Yet, it also feels uncomfortable when we slap on a label that doesn’t fit and we are not being authentic. Internally, I was dealing with the anxiety that comes from feeling lost, like I had an no authentic message and desperately wanting the internal churn to stop. The hardest thing I had to do was I had to sit in this place of discomfort and breathe into the experience. I needed to allow my mind to wrangle with these ideas and not throw an instant “fix” just to superficially stop the discomfort. And I discovered along the way just how wrong it felt to be heading down some path that didn’t feel right, because I had no words to authentically express the right path.
Words clearly matter and they are very literally attached to the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. This is true for all of us. When we aren’t being authentic, if feels wrong inside. Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” So how do you just “be yourself”?
Six quick thoughts:
- The journey of authenticity requires you try on different ideas of yourself like clothes, but it also requires you to feel if the outfit actually fits for you. Be willing to try again and again until you start to feel what resonates. The focus is on becoming “You,” not trying to become someone else. And, it’s certainly not about slapping on some label that is doesn’t resonate.
- Discovering your true self is scary and often messy. You may think something feels right, then as you wear it for awhile, you may find out, you need to tweak your direction. This is all part of the discovery process.
- There are two types of discomfort to be aware of.
- You have to listen to the discomfort you feel when you are going off course by not being true to yourself and trying to be someone you’re not comfortable being.
- You have to breathe through the discomfort and worry, that maybe you’re not good enough the way you are, that you’re not smart enough, or that no one will like you. This will probably take more than one breath.
- The more you focus on developing yourself, listening to you body, playing with what you love to do, and exploring how you want to show up in the world, the more clarity you will develop.
- The more you share your truth, the quicker you will discover your tribe of people. That tribe includes people you have never met, but when you do, and you share your authentic self, they will resonate with you and appreciate your unique message. This includes finding a job or career that you resonate with, choosing friends, and most importantly, finding intimate partners.
- Not everyone is a part of your tribe. If some people you meet don’t get you or like you… well, that’s ok. I spent many years in my 20’s trying to make people like me, it meant I was like a chameleon, constantly changing my color depending on who I was with. It was exhausting. Truthfully, it’s a big world and your job is to just focus on being you. The right people, the ones who will “get you,” will show up.
Ira Glass, from This American Life, says it very well, “Everything is more compelling, the more that you are yourself.”