“The stories I have been telling myself about this decision and role have been so powerful that it’s taken me months to admit to myself what I want. My imagined narratives are wide ranging but all have a familiar whiff of not enoughness and concern for external validation.”When you start feeling feelings and not auto-numbing them, it is excruciatingly uncomfortable. This past week, I have felt confused, unsure and like a stranger in my own body. I’ve felt this way in the aftermath of making a significant decision. I have decided that I want to start a business working as an emotional wellbeing coach. Up until 6 months ago I was working as a GP. (I have to pause and congratulate myself for how I’ve written this last sentence. Until very recently, I would have just said I was a GP. Such is the power of language, this minor rearrangement of words demonstrates my disentanglement from this label and therefore, progress. A GP was, for a long time, who I believed I was. It was an easily worn definition which pleased me. I thought it said a lot about me; until it didn’t and I wasn’t working as a doctor anymore and I had to question this truth. When I did I saw that it was never me or me, it. It was just a role I held. It no more encapsulated my ‘me-ness’ than any other part I have played. It was an important, valuable, educating and impactful role and it fit snuggly because values I hold strongly were aligned to its purpose. However, I see now it was something I did not something I was. Anyhow, I digress.)
I’ve known deep down that I want to be an emotional wellbeing coach for a while, but I haven’t allowed myself to acknowledge this truth until last week. I hadn’t put a name to the dream until now either. I didn’t know what to call it. Finally embracing the word coach, which I have been flinching away from for months, caught up in my short-sighted assumptions about the term, is a relief. I just can’t think of a better word to encompass what I mean at the moment and whilst language is Queen, not using it because it is not perfect simply means I am again holding myself back. (I reserve the right to trade coach for another word if and when I find a better descriptor of what I will be doing.) The stories I have been telling myself about this decision and role have been so powerful that it’s taken me months to admit to myself what I want. My imagined narratives are wide ranging but all have a familiar whiff of not enoughness and concern for external validation. These recognisable qualities may have had an enticing grip on my mind but they have also allowed me to sniff out the intruding myths. “Who do you think you are? Why would anyone choose to speak to you for support? Everyone’s setting up as a coach these days and it’s not even a ‘proper job’; others will be better, more qualified and more experienced. Anyway even if you do succeed in starting something, you probably won’t earn enough money to live on.” And that’s not even the half of it. I’d love to be able to say that I could easily quieten down this self critical diatribe but in it stampeded once again. The understanding that I was the only one holding myself back from doing what I wanted, was bittersweet, the pain spliced with joy because I had the chance to change the script.
So it’s great but hardly earth shattering news, that I can choose to be an emotional wellbeing coach if I want to. Another part of the problem was me worrying about what people might think or say about this thing that I might do. When in fact if anyone else is overthinking at any level anywhere near mine, they wouldn’t have the headspace to even give my plans the time of day. We’re all far too self-invested to notice others half the time with any degree of attention. And if people do notice and do care, well their reaction likely has nothing to do with me and everything to do with their unprocessed shit, just like my reactions have to do with mine.
So why do I find myself confused and anxious now the decision has been made, when my initial emotions were joy and relief at acknowledgement of my deep desire? Why am I here paralysed by possibility? My sister-in-law, Jess, says this is simply normal for a moment of spiritual growth. Any episode of expansion will have moments of contraction as part of the process. The contraction is magnification of the limiting beliefs that threaten to hold us back from change. She says it means you’re on to something, that your ego has been so successfully threatened that you’ve provoked a significant reaction and this signals that you should keep going! The contraction feels like losing my grasp on the present as my psyche shows me all the things that could go wrong if I keep on down this path. Although even from this shaky ground, I can appreciate that if I hold on and challenge the presented egoic evidence for maintaining the status quo, I can change my lens for the future and heal old limiting beliefs along the way.
To add insult to injury, this is my 5th week of not drinking. Alcohol has often provided me with an opportunity for detachment from my present, a brief release from reality, but this time, I have been in battle with myself without my trusty evening armoury. Having peeled away this layer of self-medication and most of my other numbing tricks (limitless scrolling on social media, binge-eating chocolate, huge shopping blowouts), I’m basically rolling through this swamp of dis-ease naked and it’s pretty overwhelming.
Inside my chaotic brain, I’m desperately trying to orientate myself and reacquaint myself with facts. I am reminding myself that I was a caring, empathetic doctor: that I listened and held space for my patients: that people valued my compassionate approach and that the skills I have honed sitting with fellow humans over a decade are transferable and should not be discounted. I tell myself that whilst experiencing all of the feelings in my messy brain is disarming and assaulting, it is leading me through the healing that will better equip me to guide people through their own swamps just as I am trudging through mine. I am reminding myself that If I wait to be perfect, I will never start and in fact, if I wait to be perfect, I will never support anyone except my own damn ego.
I’m not sure how or when I will get there, but I have a goal. It’s possible I will never be an emotional wellbeing coach but I want that to be because I found something I want to do more and not because I wasn’t brave enough to try.