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Lessons Learned... Sort of.

I have a story that I share often when telling people why I coach. It’s about when I was working in the photo industry as a prop stylist. At that time (ie. before I even knew what life coaching was, or how to set a boundary to save my life), I loved the work I did but I let myself get consumed by it. I functioned on adrenaline and caffeine, afraid to say no to work for fear of falling out of favor with clients, and I was so focused on pleasing others and exceeding expectations, I lost all sense of what I needed to stay healthy and sane. Rather than using my voice, I swallowed it. Rather than setting boundaries, I let others’ wants dictate my actions. But holding this all in, in an effort to please others, could only last for so long.


This self-neglect triggered panic attacks that brought my career to a stop. They were scary and uncomfortable and started happening daily. I was in a loop of fear and anxiety and it took months (and therapy and new meds) to feel like a ‘functioning’ human again. Whatever that means.


I share this story to emphasize the power of coaching, specifically coaching that engages the entire person in an integrated way. Because through working with a coach and going through a transformational coach training program, I broke up so many of the behaviors and choices that leveled me back then.


Through coaching, I saw the negative impact that the behaviors I relied on to feel valuable, worthy, and needed by others were having on me. I saw that it wasn't sustainable, or enjoyable. I learned how to ask for what I needed, and eventually what I wanted. And, I learned that my value and worth are definitely not dependent upon others.


I gained all the awareness, support structures, and training to keep me grounded, prioritizing myself, and advocating for my needs.


And yet here I am. Again. Being human.


After nearly four months of ignoring my body and my nervous system, I’m back in a loop of anxiety. Turns out that all that training and awareness doesn’t help us much if we continue to do the opposite.


For the past 3 weeks, I’ve had more than a handful of panic attacks. On ‘good’ days, I feel exhausted, anxious, and like someone has a tight grip around my neck and chest. I had plenty of warning signs along the way. And I ignored them. I was so focused on building my coaching business, supporting my partner in opening a restaurant, and perfecting the whole adulting thing, that I rarely prioritized myself and my well-being. So my nervous system slammed on the brakes.


I’ve been here before. It’s not enjoyable.


Because along with the physical anxiety, there’s the judgment and shame. The deeply rooted story that I’m broken reemerges, along with the fear that I’m letting my friends and partner down for not being ‘fun.’ The loop of negative thinking that has me believe that it’ll ‘always be this way’ is strong.


And, this time it’s different. Sure, I feel the judgment and shame, the fear of being a disappointment, the all-or-nothing thinking that wears me down. But I’m also aware that these are stories and not facts. I’m aware that the shame and fear of being seen as a failure and disappointment only amplify that anxiety and keep me in the fight or flight loop.


Knowing this — that I am not the stories I tell myself — doesn’t make the anxiety go away completely, but it does soften the impact.


I share this all simply to be seen. It feels really vulnerable to acknowledge that I can still get shut down by anxiety. That I can know how to support my well-being and my nervous system and still get caught up in deadlines and a need for productivity so much so that my body feels the need to scream in order for me to stop. ‘This is what others come to you for, you should be over this shit’ still echoes in my brain on more difficult days.


It also feels really powerful to acknowledge that I can still get shut down by anxiety. It’s a reminder that this is all a practice. And a reminder that it in no way lessens my power and capacity as a coach. I may have the awareness and the tools, but if I’m not also committing to the practice of BEING over DOING in my daily life, I do myself a huge disservice.


So I’m saying YES to vulnerability and curiosity. And I invite you to do the same.

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