After 662 hours, two and half years, and thousands of dollars, I received my final coaching certification and I wanted nothing to do with the word “coach”. It took me approximately five years to reclaim the title I had worked so hard for.
At the beginning of my training, I couldn’t wait to be a certified coach. There was nothing I wanted more: helping people was (and still is) in my blood. Most of my training was incredible; I loved learning the different techniques on how to help people in different situations. I lovingly underestimated how much my own training would impact my own personal growth. To learn coaching techniques, I was the practitioner one time and the client the next, so I uncovered and healed several of my own issues and blocks along the way. Some of my individual experiences were quite emotional as I went through them, but each time I got to the other side, a whole new world opened for me, which allowed me to become more authentic and confident.
So how did I go from loving my experience to never wanting to be called a Coach? In some ways the answer was simple, I witnessed and was on the receiving end of abusive power from the very people I had trusted. My downfall? I challenged the leadership. The fallout was swift; in an instant I lost my trust in everything I thought I knew. Irrevocable damage had been done to the deep friendships that had formed during our intensive training. And, most importantly, I lost my desire to be a coach and to help others. I was shattered.
In the immediate aftermath, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if I should have reacted differently.
· If I should have kept my mouth shut instead of speaking up when I disagreed and genuinely had an issue with the abuse of power I perceived to be happening.
· If I should have apologized for challenging the status quo, especially since the very people I had trusted and liked were upset and angry with me.
· If I made the correct decision to not defend myself after a private discussion had become public knowledge; to avoid a confrontation that would have created a lose/ lose situation.
Those questions and more swirled in my head.
I was never one to be open about anything I was going through, so only a few people (mostly family) even knew what happened. They helped me to see I did the best I could within the context of the situation. Ironically enough, I was standing up for my own beliefs and my personal integrity, something I wouldn’t have had the courage to do before the training, especially since it challenged people I trusted.
To be able to move on, I knew I had to forgive everyone involved. Some people were easier to forgive than others. Forgiving everyone, took time (years). Through various techniques I allowed myself to heal, and I began to want to help people again. However, being a “Coach” was still off the table, way off. I don’t even recall all the pretzel-twisting names I came up with and tried to use instead of using the title that was rightfully my own: Coach.
Through the processing of forgiving and moving on, I forgot to forgive the most important person: myself. You might be wondering- what did I have to forgive myself for? After all, I called out something for being wrong.
An important lesson I have learned is even when something obviously has been done to you, there are items in your unconscious mind that you need to forgive yourself for. You may need to forgive yourself for how you reacted or how you felt your feelings were invalid. Sometimes these elements are trickier to understand. I certainly did not consciously recognize them when I started working on trying to forgive myself. I had to trust it was okay for the items I needed to forgive to start as ambiguous and through my own process those items became clearer.
I had to forgive myself for speaking up. Even though I knew it was the right thing to do, the fallout was so emotionally painful, I questioned if it would have been better to remain quiet. I forgave myself for speaking up AND for questioning my decision.
I had to forgive myself for allowing myself to trust the very ones who hurt me. I questioned why I took the classes to begin with; or, better yet, why DID I continue additional classes when some initial small red flags were there? I forgave myself for the perceived flawed judgement of “I should have stopped after the first series of classes.” Looking back, I understood I wanted (and needed) to continue to the next series. It was the right thing for me to do. And ultimately, continuing with the classes was what gave me the strength and the courage to stand up for myself. I will admit this piece of self forgiveness was brutal to work through. Trusting people is one of the ways in which we can connect to others, and I am unwilling to give that up. I forgave myself for my willingness to trust people.
I had to forgive myself for taking so long to heal. People mean well when they tell you “don’t let that affect you,” or “get over it.” But the truth is, we absorb a lot of things, even if we know logically it may be harmful for us to allow an event or situation to shape us. I have found for most people to truly “get over” something means to fully process it and then move forward on an undetermined timetable. Any event which requires self reflection and healing can have multiple layers. Healing may require reviewing the whole event, or it may require analyzing just part of an event. Often it is a combination of the two. I required a mix of the two as I tried to understand and move forward. This event had too many layers for me to just brush it off. I forgave myself for trying to force a timeline on my healing.
Forgiving everyone brought me to a better place emotionally. But calling myself a coach was still out of the question. By that point, I had been working with another coach. I was okay with others having the title, just not me. She was definitely part of my word pretzel phase. She tried to steer me back to the word coach, but I dug my heels in and continued with my pretzel-twisting words. It wasn’t until after she called me out on something else that was blocking me that I consciously allowed myself to start thinking about my aversion to the word coach. And even then, it took months (long after our coaching sessions had wrapped up) for me to be willing to honestly examine my relationship to the word coach. Why was it still bothering me? I knew I had forgiven all parties, including myself. What I slowly came to realize was I had formed a limiting belief around the word coach.
Even though I had worked with a wonderful and fabulous coach, the word was still vile to me. She did have other titles besides coach, which I admit I focused on when deciding to work with her. To me at an unconscious level, the word coach had taken on a different meaning. My definition of the word coach had become: someone who was malicious, and who had the ability to hurt the very people who had placed their trust in a coach. How could I call myself a coach when I wanted and needed to be the antithesis of this definition I now had?
To understand how much my “definition” of the word had changed my perception, I finally allowed myself to do a word association: I physically wrote down everything I thought about the words coach and coaching. Logically I knew the meanings of the words. But for me personally and emotionally those words had taken on a much more sinister meaning. The word association list wasn’t pretty; it was a lot harsher than just the items I had mentioned in the prior paragraph. However, by allowing myself to see the physical list of what I had unconsciously associated with those words, it gave me a starting place to heal my aversion to the word coach.
After months of working on changing my “definitions” I began to seriously consider allowing myself to be called a coach. The first time I made a draft version of my new business cards with the word coach on them, I was still uncomfortable. I sat with the draft for quite awhile before I had the courage to order my business cards using the word coach.
By starting to use “Coach” as my title, I also came to the uncomfortable realization by reclaiming my title, I was no longer able to hide. I had unconsciously allowed myself to use my aversion to the word coach as a barrier: I was hiding my coaching abilities and talents behind my day job as a business analyst. I had known for years I needed my own business and I had been working toward that reality. As I reclaimed my rightful title I understood I also needed to step up, be visible, and truly help people in a coaching capacity.
As painful as the process has been, I am very grateful for the entire experience. My coaching skills and my titles are still mine and I am able to choose how I use them. I am a Coach.
This post has been the hardest for me to write; nothing in my book or in my other posts has been this personal. I know I didn’t provide a lot of detail about what happened; I am still a private person, and more importantly, this piece was about the aftermath of an event and my journey of forgiveness and healing.
Also, integrity is very important to me, and it serves no purpose to disclose more details. Each person involved has their own piece in the collective story, and this was my piece about how an event affected me personally. I have sent forgiveness and healing to all and I have no desire for a past event to take any more of my energy.
Forgiveness is about reclaiming your own power and strength over a situation. Otherwise it continues to gain power over you and increases your misery.