DEAR KRISTIN: As a life coach and wellness instructor, I spend most of my waking hours guiding others on how to live rich, full, purpose-driven lives. The problem is that some serious issues of my own have surfaced recently (a health scare, a hostile client, and an abrupt end to a romantic relationship), and I’m worried that I won’t be able to practice in my own life all that I preach to others.
It’s one thing to instruct, coach and advise other people on wellness principles, goals and strategies. But now that I need to tap into the very advice I preach, I’m worried that I’ll fall short. I have a client, for instance, who has been showing tremendous growth and progress, and now is the worst time to let my own problems get in the way of the progress she has made. I don’t want to disappoint anyone here --– not my clients and not myself.
Am I capable of internalizing the advice that I dispense to others? And can I get through my own tough spot without compromising the well-being of those who look to me to, um, stay well? -- ADVISER IN NEED OF ADVICE
DEAR ADVISER: This is the BEST time -- not “the worst time,” as you describe it -- to tap into all your wellness wisdom. It’s not just there for you to dispense; it’s there for you to dive into and benefit from as well, in your own life. This rough spot that you’ve hit in your own life is affording you the perfect opportunity to actualize and execute the very principles you have been trained to share with others. Now is the time to make them your own.
All of us must face and embrace moments of imbalance and discomfort in life – even those of us who dispense guidance and counsel to others. We are humans first, professionals second. Give yourself the grace and the permission to stand in your own uncomfortable moments ... but be resourceful enough and responsible enough, as a person and as a professional, to recognize when it’s time to tap into your own knowledge base in a way that brings you balance. You sound like a very wise person; the beauty of such wisdom is its accessibility and transportability. You say you spend “most of your waking hours” sharing this wisdom with others. You should certainly continue to do that -- don’t allow your clients to suffer -- but now it’s time to access that wisdom in a way that works for you, too.
Also, if you don’t already have a therapist, find one. Mental health requires nurturing and attention. Maintaining our mental health is not just a solitary, inside job. We must reach outside of ourselves to care for and curate our mental health. We seek treatment for a medical issue without batting an eye. But when it comes to maintaining our mental health, we hesitate. We try to go it alone. We become martyrs. We isolate. This is only because we’ve been trained and conditioned to conceal our mental health issues behind a cloak of secrecy. Well, it’s time for our cloaks to come off.
You are a wellness coach, but that doesn’t mean you will always be well. You are human -- and human lives can (and do) become messy and unpredictable. It is the nature of the human condition. You need to seek balance, and you know, better than most, that seeking balance often requires reaching out to others for help.
Just as the doctor will invariably require medical attention and become the patient, counselors require counseling, too. Where is it written that we must travel this road called life by ourselves? Nowhere. It is written nowhere.
Keep dispensing your wisdom and expertise to your clients without letting your own issues impede that flow; it is your professional responsibility. But also remember to take care of yourself. If you let your self-care suffer, there are repercussions for everyone -- not just for you, but for your clients.
Allow yourself the luxury of being human and yield to the notion that we all need help. Even those who help others need help. You are not superhuman.
You are human, with important choices to make and actions to take.
So take them.