Research Paper By Stephanie Townsend
(Life coach, NEW ZEALAND)
In today’s modern world where everything is created with conveniency and efficiency in mind, we still feel that we need to do more to achieve what we want in life. Rather than utilising these inventions to simplify and focus our live’s – we instead figure out how to use them to fit even more into our already busy schedules. In many cases we are left with an endless number of uncompleted projects, stress related illnesses, and the feeling that we are stuck on the carousel and are not getting anywhere near where we want to be in life.
However, if I was to pose the following questions to you:
- Where do you really want your life to go?
- What does the destination look and feel like?
- Who is travelling with you?
- Who is the driver?
- Who is the navigator?
In a perfect world we would answer with a full description of where we want our live’s to go. We will have all the support people we need travelling with us, and nobody holding us back. We will be driving our lives to exactly where we want to go.
The truth is, however, that for many of us we don’t know where we are going and if we do, we are not sure if it is where we want to go. We are influenced so often by the external world, whether it be our friends and families, our work colleagues, the media, or society as a whole; that we lose ourselves.
Through authenticity coaching, we can find ourselves again, and then make forward movements in the direction our authentic selves want to go. In this article, I will explain how authenticity coaching works, and how it can benefit you, and society in general.
So let’s get started……..
What is Authenticity Coaching?
1. Of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine
1.1 Made or done in the traditional way that faithfully resembles the original
1.2 Based on facts; accurate or reliable
1.3 (In existential philosophy) relating to or denoting and emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of life.
I believe that to be authentic is to be true to oneself. In order be true to oneself, one must first find what is true. I believe that the best way forward is to start with the origin. Who are we? What do we believe? What do we value? “But this is true of what most coaches do.” I hear you say. And you are right. However, as an authenticity coach, I take my clients through three phases of this.
- Discovery and Awareness
Although each of these phases are apparent, they are not separate from the coaching conversations. They occur throughout the coaching process. The phases also overlap, and sometimes the client will go back a phase in some areas – this is perfectly okay. It is the client’s journey and agenda, and this is adhered to 100% of the time. I will explain each step in more detail below.
*Marianne (not real name)
Marianne came to me at a crossroads. She was living in a rental with her friend. They were struggling to find a new, much needed flatmate to share the cost of the rent, and their friendship was on extremely rocky grounds. She was in a position where she could buy her own home in a different, lower priced area, and end up better off financially. However, she was afraid of bringing the subject up with her friend for fear of losing the friendship all together. Through our conversations she discovered that she valued loyalty and friendship, as well as freedom. This led to an inner conflict that she was unaware of. As a result she went into “people pleasing” mode with her friend and it was preventing her from moving forward. The discovery of these values allowed her to see her situation at a new level. But it was the acceptance of these values that allowed her to see a way forward. Marianne is now living in her own home, and she and her friend are closer than ever.
Discovery and Awareness
During this phase, the client will identify their values and may even identify some limiting beliefs they may have. This can occur in many ways. The client may ask us to do some value discovery exercises with them, or they may naturally discover them in the coaching conversation. Both ways work beautifully. In Marianne’s case there were no values exercises needed. She discovered these three core values in the coaching conversation. Once this happened, the awareness of the interplay between these values became apparent. Everything remained the same; her situation, her behaviour, the inner conflict; however, now she could see it.
The acceptance phase can happen very quickly for some. Quite often clients will identify, become aware of, and accept their values as quickly as one, two, three. They can feel like the final piece of the puzzle has been found and they now feel whole. It can be a moment of great emotion, or of pure serenity.
For others, however, this phase can take much longer. Some realise that they haven’t been living according to their values and their authentic needs for a long time. As a result, they can start to blame or berate themselves, instead of embracing and accepting that they now have a way forward. They can get stuck in the discovery and awareness phase because when the awareness is present, so is the self punishment. With the awareness can also come sadness and regret over the life that they could have now. And so, the authentic self is rejected in order to make the pain go away – after all, “Better the devil you know!” Right? I don’t believe so, there is always a pain free light at the end of the tunnel – if you are willing to move through the darkness.
In order for the client to move forward they must accept their authentic self – as a whole. Warts and all. You may say “But we can change ourselves.” And to a degree, I believe we can, but I don’t believe we can change our core selves. We can hide it, deny it, but never change it. When we accept it, freedom follows. By using the powerful coaching skills of listening, reflecting, mirroring, powerful questioning and perspective changing – we can move our clients, no matter how difficult it may seem, to acceptance.
The next step follows naturally and that’s:
Walking the walk is much easier when we fully accept ourselves. In fact it flows from the acceptance phase. I also like to call this the maintenance phase – I’ll explain why later.
Why does action come easier? When we are aware and are accepting of our authentic selves, we instinctually know what is best for us. We can make decisions a lot easier and then act on them because we are sure that it’s what we want. Not what our partners, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, grandparents, friends, or society wants but what we truly want. We also become more confident in ourselves. We know who we are, what we believe in, and we know our own minds. We feel more confident in voicing in our opinions and we don’t take it personally if others disagree as we know that they have a right to speak their minds also. This freedom takes away so many of the what once appeared to be mountains standing in our way. Therefore it leads to action.
I also call this the maintenance phase because it is during this phase where complacency can emerge. It seems the hard work has been done, which for the most part it has been, but that doesn’t mean the work stops. It needs to be maintained in order to sustain the forward momentum.
Now that I’ve explained a bit about the stages, I’ll go into more depth about the benefits of authentic living.
Benefits of Authentic Living
I truly believe that if we were all to live our lives from a place of authenticity, that our everyday lives would be much easier. I understand that there may be some cases where this isn’t the case, such as with those whose authentic self is a violent sociopath, however I believe that this is the exception to the rule, and that is way out of my scope as a coach. I believe that the vast majority are authentically good people and these are the people that I am talking about in this paper.
So how does authentic living make life easier. I touched very briefly on this in the last section but I will go deeper here.
More Life Balance
The question I used to ask when I heard the term life balance was – does it exist? I now know it does. When we know and accept our authentic selves, we intuitively know what is important and what is not. We make decisions based on our values.
*Charlotte (Not real name)
When Charlotte first came to me, she was super mum. She was a full time mum with 4 children aged from 6 down, worked two mornings and one evening a week from home over the phone, worked in a volunteer position for her community, and she was studying. She came to me because she had lost her motivation to do anything and felt like she was always letting her family and other people down. After a couple of coaching conversations, she accepted that her core values were family, connection, learning and acknowledgement. We discovered that she wasn’t feeling like she was being acknowledged at home and so she kept taking on more work to receive that acknowledgement elsewhere. After speaking with her family, she gave up her job and cut back her study hours rather than giving it up because it fulfilled her learning value. Her husband realised that he wasn’t giving her the acknowledgement that she craved and so he started to acknowledge her more which meant that she didn’t feel like she had to say “yes” so often in her volunteer role and she started to enjoy it as much as she did when she started. And most important for Charlotte, was that she was much more present for her family – she felt balanced. She was no longer tired or stressed, and her motivation was back.
When we aren’t feeling fulfilled, we have a tendency to not give our all to what we have committed to. We also tend to take on more commitments in order to find that fulfillment. And now because of the internet there are so many more things that we can take on. We lose sight of ourselves even more and we feel stressed and overwhelmed, which can lead to burn out. But by finding and accepting our authentic selves, like Charlotte did, we can find the way forward, take action, and find that balance. Don’t get me wrong. There are times in our lives when certain areas have to take priority and the other areas need to take a backseat – like having a new baby, for example – but for most part, it is very possible to have a balanced life.
More self confidence
This is very apparent in my own life. I look at my 4 year old daughter and she is the epitome of self confidence. She will walk over to any other child, male or female, a year old to ten years old, and she will ask them to play. If they say no, she shrugs it off and moves on to ask somebody else. She says what she thinks and doesn’t mind if you disagree with her (for the most part, she is 4), and she happily dances and sings wherever she is, no matter who is watching. She hasn’t reached the age yet where society tells her how she can act. I am very lucky that my husband, and the parents of her friends are on the same page as me. We believe in letting her keep her innocence for as long as possible. When we find and embrace our authentic selves, we get back some of that innocence. She hasn’t learned about rejection, about body image, about fashion, about being ridiculed for speaking her mind. She is very comfortable in her own skin.
As we grow older, we start to conform to what others expect of us for fear of being rejected. We hide our natural beauty and talents for fear of being in the spotlight and being cut down to size. We plaster our faces with make up and go on crash diets to make ourselves “beautiful”, according to society, so that we can fit in and be accepted. We don’t speak up when we have an opinion for fear of being laughed at. We speak up and voice what the crowd has already said in order to feel part of that crowd. Before we know it, we become another face in the crowd, afraid to make waves, to be ourselves, and that child in all of us stays hidden away.
When I think about my own journey – the above paragraph sums it up. I hid my face under thick make-up, I straightened my curls, I sat in the corner quietly and never spoke my mind (unless under the influence of alcohol), I exercised to excess, I wore the right clothes, and I was miserable. When I found and accepted my authentic self, none of this mattered anymore. Something just clicked inside me. I stopped straightening my hair, I wear less make up, and I speak my mind. I like me, no, I LOVE me. I allow myself to be myself. My authentic self shines through me everywhere I go, and I see this occur so often in my clients.
I don’t own others problems. I believe that we are a mirror for other people, and they are for us. They speak our truth to us. If we see our truth in somebody that we haven’t accepted, then we may dislike that person but not know why. For example, an active alcoholic might not like one in recovery because they are not willing to accept their own disease. But when we fully accept ourselves, other people’s thoughts about us don’t effect us in the same way. We know that if we don’t like somebody, we have to look at within to see what they are reflecting to us that we dislike about ourselves. And when they don’t like us, we know that it is about them – not us.
We trust ourselves more and feel more confident in voicing our opinions – not for the sake of being heard – but because our opinion adds to the discussion. Our ego no longer has power over us, we can see the bigger picture. Whenever I feel my ego coming into play, I know that I have become complacent. So I think about being like my 4 year old, and I go to work on myself with my coach.
Authenticity brings freedom. This word means different things to so many people. Freedom to one person could mean debt free, to another it can mean no longer held captive. For the purpose of this article, freedom is how you want it to appear in your life.
Coming from a place of authenticity opens up so many doors. Not only inner doors, but outer doors also. The inner doors to which I refer are those of limiting beliefs, and perceived obstacles and challenges.
*Leanne (Not real name)
Leanne was working in the world of IT for many years. She had reached the stage where she was extremely unhappy in her job, she was stressed, her relationship was suffering and her social life was non existent. She believed that her family, who all lived overseas, would not understand if she was to leave her job. After all it was a booming industry. During our coaching sessions she realised she wanted to retrain in a different industry and go into business herself. She accepted her authentic self and found her core values were freedom, family, and financial security. This acceptance allowed her to tell her family of her plans and to discover that they were fully supportive of her decision. She also put systems in place so that she would have enough to cover her financially for the realistic time frame she set for herself to retrain. She has now left her job and is almost finished her studies. She told me she feels “free”.
In Leanne’s case, her inner doors were her beliefs around what her family would say, and her need for financial security. After discovering this, the doors unlocked and she was able to walk through them with an action plan, to discover that the doors were of her own creation to start with. This creates a feeling of freedom.
The outer doors that were unlocked for her came from her families support that she was not expecting. This gave her the freedom to take action, and move forward towards her dream life.
I love coaching, and I love being coached. I believe that everybody can benefit from having a coach, and coaching is the perfect channel to find your authentic self and live an authentic life.
Imagine what the world would look like if we all fully accepted ourselves. Imagine what the world would look like if we allowed our true selves to shine. I’m not talking about perfection 100% of the time – if we are true to ourselves then we would know that we aren’t perfect. I’m not sure about those of you reading, but I don’t want to be perfect. I want to continue to strive for the life that I want. I want to help others to do the same. I believe that coaching can change the world. And I believe that authenticity coaching can make the change shine brighter.
Authenticity coaching brings self acceptance, self love, confidence, love for others, balance, inspiration, motivation, focus, success and freedom. How much happier would you feel if you knew that you were on the road that you truly wanted to be on? If you had no doubt that it was what you wanted? If you failed, would you try again? I can’t speak for you, but I can for me and for those who have traveled this path, and their answer would be yes. Because that’s what they want. Can you say that now on the road that you are on? I hope so.
Being authentic doesn’t mean telling the world your inner most secrets. It is about you being true to you. And when you are living the authentic life, freedom will come.
*Names were changed and clients gave permission for use of their stories. Authorized by clients before being sent.