When I first began training as a coach, I wanted to get the learning, but didn’t realize that it also meant I would need to get messy myself. I figured I could learn how to best ask questions, have deep conversations, and help people to become more powerful versions of themselves.
I wanted the tools and skills to make change happen. I wanted to perfect the art of coaching and create a fan club of clients who were grateful and appreciative of our work together.
When I entered my first training session as a participant, I was eager to prove how knowledgeable and perfectly suited to coaching I was. I focused on improving my skills, getting my peers to go deeper and deeper, and allowing truly intimate parts of myself to shine through only momentarily.
I was, in short, trying to hack the system. To go deep without actually going deep.
When I began the more intensive training program, beyond the fundamentals, I started to feel that disconnect more strongly – realizing that nothing could truly transform unless I started to break down my own walls. But believe me, those walls had been constructed in cement over many, many years, adding layer after layer with each new life experience that made me feel scared, anxious, or out of my depth.
I had a perfect palace around me, moat and all.
And with that moat, I couldn’t understand why my relationships stayed only skin deep, and why I felt so unsatisfied with one career move after another. I was chasing a feeling I wanted to have, but when I found what I was looking for, I wouldn’t actually let it touch me on a deeper level.
Dating felt lackluster, finding faults and flaws with each man I met. Work felt frustrating, never actually doing the meaningful, impactful work I was craving and knew I was capable of. Even my friendships had started to feel surface level, talking casually about daily worries or woes, or even celebrating minor successes, but never really getting to the heart of anything.
I was facing an overall lack of enthusiasm in so many areas, and still I wanted to get the quick fix in building my business. Give me skills, give me tools, and give me clients. I had no idea what it would really take help someone else transform. In fact, I had no idea what it would take to help myself transform.
In one particular session, while my business (and confidence) was still in its infancy, I was being coached on my romantic relationships. I had gotten out of a difficult engagement not too long before, and still carried to armor I had created to protect myself and my heart. And man, was that armor heavy. It not only protected me from future heartache in love, it protected me from any perceived hurt or disappointment at all.
My colleague coached me and challenged me to physically shake off the armor. I resisted, feeling silly and uncomfortable. I recognized that I was protected, but wasn’t quite ready to shake it off. And yet, under his caring guidance, I started to jump up and down, physically shaking out my arms and legs, hopping on foot and then the other, tilting my head down and letting my hair fall freely above the floor, continuing to jolt from side to side, laughing at how idiotic I must look. And that good man shook right alongside me, so I wasn’t alone in feeling ridiculous. And after all the jumping and jostling, I stood, for the first time in years, on my own two feet, and felt seen.
With all my armor gone, I felt vulnerable and scared. Without my protection, I could be laughed at, or worse - hurt again.
And yet, I knew that in that moment, I was free. Free from the past that had constrained me, free from the stories I had told myself about who I was and the lies I convinced myself were true about the people around me. I was finally free.
And from that place of feeling almost naked I could finally begin to heal my heart and touch that fire within myself. From that place, I could start to move towards the dreams I had envisioned for so long, but had no idea how to reach.
Each unfulfilled vision, each dream or longing within me came to the surface, and I realized that without the armor holding me back, I could begin the very messy process of creation. And while it terrified me to be on display with the possibility of failure so close to my fingertips, I finally began to create.
My creations were imperfect. They were full of passion and ideas and longing. They were far from the skillful, edited version of what I saw being put out into the world. And yet, I was creating! These creations were my own and they were full expressions of myself, my ideas, and my view of the world. I created programs for clients, I wrote articles for my blog, I published stories on other peoples’ websites. I started to find my own unique voice, and slowly my confidence began to build.
Suddenly, it became less about getting it right and more about keeping the momentum going. With each new creation came a strong desire to create more, and with traction came flow. I made a commitment to myself in that moment that I wouldn’t allow my pen to run dry, or my keyboard to remain untouched, because the prison of inaction was too high a price to pay for an illusion of perfection. And knowing that there will never be the right moment to begin and that I will never get it just right, I actively remove my armor on a regular basis and continue to create.
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