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“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
As a life coach, I know the impact coaching can have, and I choose to work with coaches myself on and off.
About two years ago, this is what happened during a session with my coach at the time:
She said to me, “You are not broken, and you do not need to be fixed.”
I honestly don’t remember what we were even talking about. But I do remember how I immediately burst into tears. And I felt very confused. Where was this coming from? I had never thought of myself as broken! Quite the opposite. I considered myself strong and capable, despite the less pleasant experiences of my life. I was priding myself on getting on with life without wallowing in self-pity or relying on others for support. So, yes, of course I wasn’t broken! Why would she state the obvious?
Well, my tears were giving me a clue; the moment she said those words to me, I instantly realized that she had hit the nail on the head. While I had never consciously thought of myself as broken, with hindsight I suddenly saw how that belief had manifested itself in many of my thought and behavioural patterns: The thought of never being good enough. The thought of something being wrong with me. The feeling of never fitting in. The thought that I needed to “better” myself to get over it and to become a fully functioning and whole person. The belief that whatever I had experienced in my childhood had made me “damaged goods.” That I had emotional scars that would never heal and which I could only ever learn to live with or hide.
To be honest, I am actually amazed that I never even noticed that I saw myself as broken when that belief had been festering away in my subconscious all along.
On the one hand, admitting to myself that I had felt broken for most of my life was very painful, and on the other hand it was also a relief. At the start of any transformation is the acknowledgment of the issue. It highlighted what I wanted to shift.
My coach’s simple statement woke me up and led to me to a number of additional insights that I want to share with you:
I am enough.
What are the implications of thinking of yourself as broken? These will vary from person to person, of course. They may include shame, despair, pain, and/or sadness. For me, there was always an undercurrent of not feeling good enough combined with the assumption that I needed to be fixed—only I didn’t know how!
I love affirmations in general, and “I am enough” is a favourite of mine. I instantly relax. I am enough just the way I am. That doesn’t make me a perfect human being, and it doesn’t mean that there aren’t things about myself that I want to change. But it reminds me that there is nothing “missing.” I don’t need anything external to complete me. Everything I am is enough as it is—and it will always be enough.
And you are enough, too.
Just the way I considered myself broken, I also considered (some) other people to be broken (that is only logical, right?). Thinking of others as broken fundamentally impacted how I interacted with people.
But just as I am enough, you are enough, too. This mindset shift proved relevant for me in a number of ways. For one, I am not here to “fix” you, ’cause there is nothing that needs to be fixed! It means I am not responsible for you. It means that I have every confidence that you will be leading the life you desire (if you aren’t already now, then at some point in the future). It means that I am excited not to fix you, but to support you in tapping into all the resources that are already there. It also means that I am less inclined to offer unsolicited advice (this is something I am still working on reversing!).
Asking for help doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you.
Okay, so we established that neither you nor I are broken. And we have all the resources and abilities within us to create a life that makes us happy and fulfilled. But that doesn’t mean that at some points in our lives we won’t still benefit from getting external support.
Asking for and accepting help can often save us time and ease our struggles. And when you are asking for help with regard to matters of the mind, this is not a request for somebody else to fix you or do something that you couldn’t do for yourself. But why wouldn’t you want to get where you want to be in the fastest way possible? Learning this has made it so much easier for me to reach out to others as well as to accept support. It’s no longer another sign of my imagined brokenness.
Unearth your subconscious beliefs for real transformation.
This is actually a question I often get from my coaching clients: How do I become aware of my beliefs if they are subconscious?
My advice is that whatever makes you feel discomfort is a good starting point to investigate further. What triggers you? What makes you angry or sad? Or, in this particular instance, what made me cry in that moment? Look at it without judgment but with curiosity. Don’t avoid the issue. What’s a little bit of unease right here and now compared to it bubbling away underneath the surface for the rest of your life?
Accept the paradoxes of life.
I grew up with a life concept that was marked by duality: right and wrong, good and bad. To me, those concepts were mutually exclusive as well as universal. It took me a long time to figure out what a load of nonsense that is. For, as long as I believed in those concepts, it was impossible for me to accept the paradoxes in thoughts and feelings I was experiencing. How could I feel self-confident and insecure? Introverted and extroverted? Strong and weak? Happy and desperate? This made me battle with my self-image for a long time, and it made me question myself. Surely my self-confidence was a fluke when I also had days when I felt absolutely worthless…and so on.
Realizing that things are not clear-cut and, indeed, I can be all of the above and everything in between has made me relax so much more. It’s taken away the need to analyse and explain things to myself all the time. It’s made me see myself as the multifaceted person that I am. It’s helping me to accept all parts of me without being judgmental.
Just to be clear: I am not denying that people go through painful, sometimes traumatic experiences. And yes, some or all of them might leave a mark—some of them very deep. And they are most likely going to stay with us for the rest of our lives. But, just as with happy memories, they are adding to the tapestry of life. Just because a thread might be loose or there’s a knot somewhere or the pattern is interrupted, none of that means the tapestry is broken! If anything, it makes it unique.
I remain a huge fan of self-development, and I know for sure that my journey hasn’t ended yet. It feels different though knowing that my motivation behind it is not to fix myself.
And that is my message for you: in short, please don’t regard self-development or personal growth as a means to “mend” yourself, but instead as interesting and fun ways to further enrich your life and as tools that help you get to know yourself and others even better.
Because there is nothing wrong with you. There really isn’t.
Last but not least, I will leave you with another quote I love:
“You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.” ~ Sophia Bush