Finding Authenticity as a Coach
When we are no longer afraid of who we are, we act from integrity and authenticity.Richard Strozzi-Heckler
I’ve spent my whole life seeking to become authentic. Why did it take so long? Two reasons.
I had to find the unabashed courage to be me despite other people’s reactions and judgments. And it took years to find me and escape the version of me that tried to fit in with the expectations of others.
There is a particular moment that stands out for me.
It was the spring of 2018 and I’d signed up for a Life Coach Training. We met for our first course at a conference center in Los Angeles. At the first course, there were about twenty-five people: two master coaches, three assistants and twenty or so students. It was the first time in years I had been in a group setting.
It took me back many years to a spiritual retreat I attended in France. I took part in a special exercise which had been created by the teacher. The purpose of the exercise was for us to experience how group thinking on a certain topic can influence us to fit in. Anyone who deviates, who thinks differently, or who might be perceived as a threat, runs the risk of incurring wrath. Now if you up the stakes and it becomes a matter of survival, most people will go along because they are too afraid of the consequences if they don’t. This exercise perfectly re-created fear and paranoia in all the participants and I got to understand the dark side hidden in all of us. Fortunately, we all emerged unscathed, but the experience left a deep impression on me.
Fast forward to 2018, sitting on a chair in a circle of a group of people I didn’t know, I felt a foreshadowing of that fear I had experienced in France many years ago. This course was important to me, it held the promise of a new career and I’d been looking forward to it for months.
As soon as the course started, the dilemma of speaking up or staying quiet came up for me. But this time, I just opened my mouth and it was like I was running towards a cliff and jumping off into free-fall. I don’t know why it happened that weekend but the time seemed right and I believe in the grace of timing.
As I sat in that chair, a fire continued to build inside of me and I realized that being my true self was more important than letting my fear hold me back. I am naturally introverted and afraid of public speaking. But that weekend, on numerous occasions, I spoke up if I didn’t agree or felt I could offer a different perspective. Sometimes people didn’t understand what I was saying but I didn’t let that stop me. I noticed that the more I did it, the more I felt alive and present. That weekend, I moved from thinking too much about things to being, and I no longer felt I needed to conform to other people’s ideas. The risk was worth it, even if it meant being expelled from the group.
We all think we are authentic but most of us fail to live up to our ideals.
I was raised to be a people pleaser. A “good” girl. I’m a very good listener because it covered over how uncomfortable I felt around other people. All of my emotions were carefully controlled, coiled tight and often hidden. I didn’t fit in and felt different to others but that led me on the path to whom I am today.
Since that weekend in 2018, my fear no longer controls me. Inside my being, I am much more peaceful. I am not afraid of being “seen.” These days I can walk up to perfect strangers and start conversations with them. I no longer feel the need to pretend to be anyone other than myself. It’s such a relief to fully accept my flaws and acknowledge my strengths, and I am happier and more fulfilled than ever.
Recognize that becoming authentic takes time.
Here are a few tips on how to begin your own authenticity journey:
- Trust yourself. Notice what feels real and what feels false. Let go of patterns and beliefs that no longer express who you are.
- Learn the art of surrendering rather than living from a place of resistance.
- Live according to your values and pursue your purpose.
- Practice observing yourself as if you were a fly on the wall. Notice what you are thinking, feeling and how you react to different situations.
- Become more accepting of yourself. It may be helpful to divide yourself into two parts, the parent and the child. The parent’s role is to love and accept the child, no matter what.
- Develop the courage to face your fears. This might feel like travelling in a strange country without a map. If you can be present, you can calm your mind that you will deal with any problems only as they arise instead of obsessing over the future.