I want to share an experience that again taught me how important it is to hold on to our authentic selves.
Proudly, I recently completed my accreditation as a Presence Based Coach® Not so proudly, only by the skin on my teeth. The accreditation process came at the end of a few years of study, culminating in an oral exam. I had 30 minutes in a phone coaching session to demonstrate the required competencies with a volunteer coachee. The examiners were to be the 3 faculty members all who know me very well and had experienced my coaching several times over the years of study. I had been given very positive feedback from these people and I have a significant coaching practice, I feel coaching is a strength of mine!
So what could go so wrong? I even did some additional practice coaching to manage my 30 minutes well. I considered my self ‘well prepared’ but. There was this lurking thought running around it my head. An old, little dull voice, quietly saying ‘not good enough’… I didn’t tell anyone because I thought I had had this rotten little voice beat. Left unacknowledged, pushed away and ignored, not addressed, it led me to exactly that, I didn’t trust that the way I coach was good enough to pass the exam, even in the face of substantial evidence to the contrary. I didn’t want the examiners to see ‘the truth’, I didn’t want them to think I wasn’t good enough. Wow when I say that even now, I feel sick it my stomach and I feel shame that I would so willingly sell out on myself.
So off I went into the coaching exam and I just didn’t show up! I know I covered most of the competencies but the important bit, the me that makes a difference in my coaching, my humanity, my humour and warmth, my presence, well I didn’t want it to be blamed for my failure so I didn’t bring it into the coaching exam. I finished the call and it was over. I knew “I” wasn’t in it. And that was exactly the feedback from the examiners. I was fortunate that my skills were such that I did a solid job of coaching, enough to pass, just, but the poor coachee didn’t get all of me, my authentic self, that which adds the most value in my work, in my life. An opportunity lost. Then I felt ashamed. Ashamed of the result, not because of the mark, because I was not willing to be authentic, because I got scared (in front of those who know me well). I believed the voice that I might not be good enough and I couldn’t bare it, I couldn’t risk it. For that 30 odd minutes, I gave up my most important belief about authenticity, that it is the best of us, of me. How dare I?
I have a feeling that shame comes directly from letting go of our authentic selves. For believing our fears instead of trusting the truth of ourselves. For me, my experience of that shame is destructive and debilitating. Instead of celebrating my achievement I have taken some time to get over the “giving up on myself”, for not holding true under the pressure of an ‘exam’. I would have liked a much better result but my fear became my reality. So now learning is what can help me here. I think suppressing the voice, telling myself I had it sorted didn’t help. It avoided me dealing with it in a more constructive way. Acknowledging the old ‘friend’ had returned would have allowed me to be better prepared, use some tools I have found helpful in the past, talk to the head of faculty for support, and been more compassionate towards myself in setting expectations for this exam.
I can’t imagine what it must be like to not be on an authentic journey, believing the doubts and fears and not trusting myself, ever. And I can see what behaviours it might lead to covering up and hiding. Feeling shame more often than not, I don’t want to be in that space, and I don’t want anyone else to suffer there either.
I’d be really interested in your comments and your own stories.