The “problem” with life coaches and other women perpetrating a positive message

success

The other day, a link to a recently published blog post called “The Problem With Life Coaches” popped up in my Facebook feed, and curious, I clicked to read it.

It was written by another coach about life coaches; how we work and how some of us are evidently trying to pimp out our “perfect lives” as the product for our prospective clients versus the guts of the work that is coaching (sparkling inquiry, guidance, support, action design and follow-through, cognitive shape-shifting and resilience building, to name a few of my skills, at least).

There were some things in the first few paragraphs that I could get behind, but as I kept reading, I had to take issue with some of his opinions. And yes, these are his opinions, and I’m glad he’s entitled to have them … and I, mine.

Here’s where I stopped what I was reading and said, “hold up…”

“I am immediately turned off by life coaches who make life seem easy or perfect in order to sell their product. These coaches give a bad reputation to talented coaches who have a tangible and valuable service to offer.”

as well as this…

“The coaches I know who make a living from coaching, don’t spend their days at the beach.” 

oh, and this…

“When we depict an idealized life others should aspire to, we ignore the fact that most people’s lives are actually really complicated and nuanced.”

I read some of the comments where there were a lot of exclamations that were along the lines of “oh, thank God — I’m so sick of these people with their exotic locales, yoga bodies and ‘#beingintheflow’ shit.”

I get it. I’m a human being who thinks and feels, too. I have my moments where I feel that tug of jealousy or comparison.

Sometimes I think, “oh fuck — do we have to hear about how much more awesome it all can be?” when I read the posts of other people.

Listen closely. Here’s one of the most powerful cognitive muscles I’ve built in my brain that has changed my life (and the lives of many people I’ve worked with):

What I think and feel when I react to the people has nothing to do with them.

Who they are, as well as who they say they are, is none of my business, actually.

The true power in life comes when I own what is happening in my mind and my reactions to what I see or hear. 

So what do you stand to gain from that? What does that have to do with you and your life?

I would imagine in the hyper-connected world we live in today, you’ve had your own negative, judgmental reactions to people on Facebook or Instagram similar to what this guy has written about.

Generally, we are serving up a lot of the “sheen” of our lives when we share our posts and photos. Sure, you’re going to come across the “same shit different day” folks (that’s a whole other blog post), but we often want people to see what’s good, pretty, hilarious, silly, inspirational, moving, etc.

Here’s where I’ll ask you to put the brakes on your reactivity next time you come across another human being (life coach or not) getting their shine on through social media and you roll your eyes. Consider this:

  • Be curious with yourself. Ask yourself this: “Hmmm…I just had the thought that ‘omg, that woman lives her whole life in the gym and is a vapid show-off with obviously too much time and money on her hands’— wow, what am I making her post/photo mean? about life? about me?” It’s interesting information-gathering to do when you’re judging, comparing-and-despairing or feeling jealous.
  • And if you find your reaction has its roots in that person having an experience or feeling you want, take notice. Offer yourself the gift of inquiry about how that connects to what you want and then consider how you’d make that happen for yourself.
  • This I know for sure after years of walking with individuals through the private narratives of their lives as a counselor and coach: You do not know that person’s full story. They get to share what they want to share. Or not.
  • They get to be vulnerable.
  • They get to be proud.
  • They get to complain.
  • They get to be exuberant.
  • They get to be who they are.

And you get to stay in your lane and BE WHO YOU ARE. If you are inspired by them, then love yourself enough to design a life on your terms that fuels the feelings that inspire you.

But don’t stand there too long with your arms folded across your chest thinking stuff like:

  • “God, if I could just have her energy / friends / money / ideas / boobs / well-behaved kids, then I would be happy.” 
  • “Jay-sus! No one is that perfect. We’re all sick and tired of your check-ins at gala events, international airports and restaurants that aren’t Steak & Shake, woman.”

Be judicious with your responses and manage your brain after your humanity comes tumbling out like a tall two year old sticking its tongue out at the world.

Take personal responsibility for your mind and you will do the same thing with your life.

That’s empowerment. That’s what moves mountains in our lives.

I am going to be really honest with you here: When this article came through my feed, I started letting it elbow my pretty little psyche after my “Ireland mutha fuckas — imma be charging you more this fall for what I do — look at my red newsboy cap and eyelashes” post on Facebook the other day.

I coached myself on it because my brain immediately went to:

“Oh God, I’ve become one of those people he writes about. I have built a life I share that’s muscles, facials, world travel, #liveoutloud, black leather dresses and platform stilettos. I’m pimping out my lifestyle as though I know the way, truth and light to personal happiness.”

And then there was this:

“I’m also a woman who has been exasperated with her kid to the point of tears, who walked with her husband through the death of both of his parents in less than two years time; who has overdraft fees sometimes and eats lots of sugar in bed when I’m hiding from myself. Oh, and I have plantar fasciitis.”

TRUTH: I’m ALL of that stuff and I embrace vulnerability even when it scares the shit out of me, so I’ve probably shared many of those things publicly. That feels good to me. That’s who I am as a woman. 

Maybe others don’t want to share the bumpy parts like I do; and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean they think they’re perfect, though.

This other coach’s take that “life coaches make people feel…”?

No.

People who look at coaches (or friends, work colleagues, or a cousin in New York) make what they see, mean something to them.

My wish for you is to see a successful, happy woman, stop and say, “that is HER awesome – I want to claim MY kind of awesome.”

Instead of channeling your energy into criticism, “hating” or judging, I urge you to figure out how you want to show up in the world and be more authentic.

My work here in the world is share the tools I have with people to create a life where they can say, “I like — no — I love who I am. “

I’m not here to “sell” you my life/lifestyle or make you think it’s the only template for your personal happiness and fulfillment. That is not my motivation for sharing.

But I’m for damn sure a woman (and a coach) who WILL share her life, though. That’s my voice in the world and I’ll use whatever channels I want for my voice. 

And with that said, I want to point to a seemingly innocuous, yet misogynistic undertone in this article (which can be just as (if not more) dangerous than the ‘in your face, bitch’ volleys aimed at women).

I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but it struck a familiar chord with me that I’ve felt before.

There were a lot of allusions to “too pretty” and “too pristine” and svelte yoga bodies and luxurious retreats; for example, this sentence:

“Usually the coaches are incredibly attractive people with tan skin who seemingly spend a lot of time at the gym or do yoga all the time (as in, like, every second of every day).”

He didn’t use the pronouns “her” or “she” or mention “women” outright, but I know someone who’s trying to put the lid on females when I see it — even if they don’t know they’re doing it or would even deny doing it.

I’ve got 44 years of experience as a woman, so I’ve got quite a refined radar for that shit.

This stuff comes in the form of knocking a woman’s beauty and self-care regimen (spray tans, gym time and such) just as much as it does when there’s bashing of the woman whom one might say has “let herself go” or “has no self-control and you can see it on her body.” And anything in between that.

The vast majority of us in personal development are women. And we have beautiful bodies. With killer biceps. And soft pillows of bellies where our babies grew. We’ve got smooth foreheads from Botox. We have cellulite on our asses. We upgrade to business class and drink Champagne. And we drive off from the service station without putting the gas cap on our cars sometimes. Or forget to pay our electric bill.

Perfectly imperfect.

Here’s what: It is not this man’s job — or anyone else’s, for that matter — to determine who and what has enough grit and what defines “real” or what’s “too pretty / pristine.” We get to define who we are and what things mean to us in this life. And why, exactly, are svelte bodies, skin tone and yoga retreats a target?

Ladies, women, girls — be who you are.

Share what you wish to share.

Revel. Wallow. Own it all.

And own and manage your mind and reactions to what you see and hear from others.

Let them own their power.

Grow into your yours.

Create your life.

You get to decide. 

 

 

 

 

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14 thoughts on “The “problem” with life coaches and other women perpetrating a positive message

  1. I read that post the other day and walked away with the same general feelings. Thank you for putting it into such beautiful words.

    1. Thank you for sharing that, Laurie. And thank you for reading.

  2. Well said, amen, true ‘dat & all the above! I’m a Decor Coach (interior designer who takes a Ciaching approach) and the “imperfectly perfect” has been a hard lesson for me to come to grips with. Type A control freak in recovery…The more I embrace “imperfect”, more it seems to show up and my one-to-one work. It’s amazing to hear the relief I feel echoed in my clients after our work. In turn they begin to show themselves a little grace for not having the perfect home or life or financial situation. I never knew my efforts to embracing “the mess” while still working towards meaningful change would affect my work so much.

    First time on your site and really appreciate this;)

    1. So great, Heather! Love all of this. And thank you for hanging out in my world. Stay tuned : )

  3. Oh gawd – I am guilty of letting my ‘I’m not good enough’ shitty belief colour my view of the exact people he was talking about. And why is it that I forget like – 150 million times a week – that its my thoughts that create my feelings when faced with the statuses of world travelers and success? Oy. Loved this article.
    xo
    Kat

    1. Kathie — yaaaasss girl — to all of this. I think we all have those feelings of not-enoughness or “when is it my turn?” and a host of others. If we can let ourselves recognize them instead of pushing them away and then investigate how/what WE want to be in the world, there is so much good that can come from that.

  4. This is a fabulous article and I think we should make this go viral!!! I’ll be sharing it!

    XOXO, Shanna

    1. Thank you for sharing this, Shanna — I got a lot of great feedback from people that I think are connected to you : )

  5. Thank you for sharing and being vulnerable and authentic!

  6. You have so hit on the true points of what is right and wrong. There is no such thing as perfect and that’s exactly what is perfect about it. How we live our lives is up to us and I want to see a day when we no longer think we need to achieve perfection (whatever that even is), don’t compare and judge ourselves or others negatively, and can embrace the feeling of love for where others have come knowing that they went through hell possibly to get there. I hear all the time “You work out and do yoga all day” which is wrong and a total misperception. I am growing a company, healing clients, and creating all day but do happen to take care of myself (some days) because I matter and without me being in an optimal state there would be no business, my children would have no mom, and my husband would be a widow. It’s all about our perception. Thank you for shedding light on what really is the truth, life is what we make it.

  7. “He didn’t use the pronouns “her” or “she” or mention “women” outright, but I know someone who’s trying to put the lid on females when I see it — even if they don’t know they’re doing it or would even deny doing it.

    I’ve got 44 years of experience as a woman, so I’ve got quite a refined radar for that shit.”

    hm, listen to your own advice…: “What I think and feel when I react to the people has nothing to do with them.”

    You are entitled to your opinion… The blog you are responding to sounded vulnerable and resonated me so much! It was real, true, raw and honest. Your sounds defensive. And like you are hiding…

    1. Thanks for the comment, Kat. I stand in what’s true for me / my opinion and always welcome the discourse.

      And I’m self-aware enough to hear my own words and consider how what I’m writing is my reaction to someone else and how I want to manage that.

      I have my moments of shrinking back or “hiding” like any human, but I know myself enough to know that’s not what I’m doing with most of my life. Or else I wouldn’t hit “post.”

      I’m glad the other coach’s blog spoke to you and I appreciate you reading mine, as well.

  8. AMEN! I read that original blog post and felt like I should’ve written this article myself… but thank you for saving me the time – you’ve done it better that I ever could have.

    Amazing xx

    1. Thank you so much, Martina. I felt like I could see where the other coach was coming from for part of his post, but then it just felt like it got critical and accusatory — and just like I wrote in my post — that’s MY reaction to him and his words. I get to manage it and have my opinion : ) and that it resonated with you? I’m glad you felt the connection to my words and stopped in to leave a comment.