My morning mantra at the moment (when I’m not distracted by a hungry 10-year-old terrier) is “I am unique, I have unique skills to offer this world.” Why? Having come from the extremely niche, specialised and in-demand world of legal stenography, I have deliberately chosen to move into a new career path that could easily be viewed as saturated. Life coaches are everywhere, as are Facebook adverts for life coaching training programmes. And of course the life coaching industry has taken a beating in recent times, not least with the dig in Charlie Brooker’s ‘Death to 2020’ film, which made me cringe inwardly.
Does the world really need so many coaches? In America it’s a different story as coaching is much more well-established and whether we think it’s a good thing or not, in general Americans are a lot more willing to ask for help. In the UK we’re much more ‘keep calm and carry on’, stiff upper lip, deal with it yourself and never tell anyone you were worried in the first place. Life coaching is not hugely well understood, unless you’ve experienced it and so understand the empowering effect it can have.
But even if people are looking for a coach, sometimes it can seem impossible to believe that people will find little old me amongst the hordes of other coaches, who in my eyes are much more successful, more media savvy, Instagram-friendly and generally winning at life.
This is when I have to pick myself up and walk my talk, for it’s true that this feeling of not standing out, not being special, not being up to the job, is doubtless shared by many people that I coach. Imposter syndrome looms large! It's all too easy to get caught up in the roles we're playing and forget about our own unique talents, what makes us special.
So here’s my list of reminders and tips that I turn to when I need to shake that feeling:
1- Only you are you. Yes, you do have a unique voice, a unique way of putting things, a unique way of understanding things that others may not, a unique perspective on the world, unique emotions, a unique sense of humour and unique interests.
2- You have your own unique friends who are attracted to you because of who you are, not because of who you’re not.
3- You have unique skills. I know it can be hard to admit this to yourself but take a few moments to think about a time someone complimented your skills. There will be at least one time. Write it down. For example, I’m told I’m a very compassionate listener and that I make very good halloumi pasta.
4- Step out of your bubble. Imagine you are up above yourself, perched in a tree or on a little cloud, looking down. Look at things from this more distant perspective. What would you tell yourself? Does it really matter that you are full of doubts about how special you are, or are you able to push them aside and get out there? What are those negative beliefs which are holding you back? How can you move past them? What would you tell yourself if you could look down on yourself in that way?
5- What do you think your skills are? What are you good at? Be specific and be as detailed as you want. It could be “Ah well, I’m excellent at mergers and acquisitions”, or it could be “I am supremely excellent at binge watching a series on Netflix in a single weekend.” If I look into my heart honestly, I know I’m a good coach. I know I’ve made a difference to people’s lives and a lot of my fears about not being good enough or special enough come purely from comparison.
“Comparison is the thief of joy” - Theodore Roosevelt
6- What unique things bring you joy? This collection of things are building blocks in your uniqueness. Write a list. This is one of my favourite exercises to do with clients as I think we often forget the little things that bring us joy and I love seeing clients’ faces light up when they tell me about them. They can be as grand as riding a hot air balloon, or as small as stroking your dog. You could also try my 30 Days of Happiness Challenge.
7- What are your dreams? Our dreams make us unique. No two people want exactly the same thing in exactly the same way and this brings us round to competition again. In my case, if no two coaches are wanting exactly the same thing in the same way from their business, where is the competition?
8- If you’re feeling brave, ask your friends to describe you in three words. You might be surprised at the results.
9- Make a list of people you admire. Why do you admire them? What are the unique traits that draw you to them? Can you see how they are all different?
10- Finally, celebrate yourself by having a me-day, or a me-evening. Set time aside to do things that really make you feel like you, the authentic you. If you want to spend the whole evening in the bath listening to ABBA, that’s fine. Or go for a run. Or watch science documentaries. Whatever you LOVE doing that is truly yours, do it.