To write authentically as a life coach feels like a strange balance–because I never know quite how far to go in writing the messy, ugly, juicy details of my own life.
When I became a life coach in 2013, I noticed that some of my creative energy to write real, tell-all, blog posts dried up.
I had always written truthfully about my life through my books, personal essays, and blog posts. Writing truthfully about my life was my thing! Writing is more alive when it’s more real.
But when I took on this new professional direction, I felt afraid to go all the way there in my blog writing. Some revealing pieces languished.
I guess I thought I was “supposed to have it all together” and that it wouldn’t be good for potential clients or the clients I already had to know that much about me. Like, that time I got obsessed with the Tinder Guy in Atlanta and stayed up all night on the phone talking with him. As in, wasn’t that unhinged? Or the ways that dishes used to pile up in my sink. I suppose I judged myself, expecting others would judge me too. The desire to look perfect. Oh!
Being reluctant to disclose personal information is common for people in these helping professions. Therapists and counselors are generally sparing with self-disclosure.
When I’m coaching, I generally veer toward a limited approach to self-disclosure–that is to say, I don’t talk much about myself. I may share something personal if I believe that may help the client. If I share a tidbit, I try to share the reason I am sharing it first. In the end, life coaching is about you and your life, not me.
So then, how does this level of disclosure translate to my blog and writing? I’ve been pondering this question over the last few months because I want to take risks in my blogging again.
I’ve noticed that “vulnerable” blog posts from life coaches are popular but those kinds of posts often present some kind of formulaic tips or answers for life problems, as if we are only supposed to share when we have resolved the problem (or our foibles) to our own satisfaction and tell you the answers in the rear view mirror.
Sometimes I don’t have “answers”–and I don’t want to even pretend to have them.
I was talking about this dilemma with my friend Jenny Bitner, a hypnotherapist. We both have artistic and therapeutic sides of our work. Jenny said, “It feels hard in any field where you are offering help to admit your own problems.”
“People are very drawn to someone who appears together and confident…not that you can’t be both,” she also said. That’s the question. Can we appear together and confident, and admit that we are a work-in-progress with problems of our own? Do we want to read about Oprah’s meltdowns, or do we want her to only guide us with wisdom?
I’m after authenticity because that’s what feels most alive. By its nature, being authentic involves risk. I notice lots of young YouTube stars posting videos like “misconceptions about me” or “mental health chat” where they talk about their own problems. I get inspired by their courage and transparency. I mean, I know people think I am transparent too but only I know what I’m not sharing!
If I am honest I myself am drawn to people who are quite explicit in acknowledging they don’t have their perfect lives all worked out either.
Authenticity is a constant quest because what felt authentic a year ago may not feel authentic now.
These are questions I have been sitting with. I’m wanting to return to the more risky, personal online versions of my writing, and trust that works.
From here on out, I’m going to try to be even a wee bit more authentic and unafraid to be a human, writer and life coach and all. Let’s see how that adventure goes. Eeeek!
What about you? Do you have any places in your life where you would like to show up more authentically, but you are afraid to do so?