This spring I received the best advice I can remember in a long time. I was prepping for a call with my life coach Russ as I built my ‘story’ and planned for the call.
We started as usual talking about my success and celebrations from our last session the week prior. Russ worked hard to teach me that habit, and this time, I knew it was coming and was prepared for it. “My celebrations are…[insert pre-planned list].” We moved through our first topic and it wasn’t long before I dove into my recent ‘breakthrough’ about who I really am and why. It all started with the Enneagram…and wait, how much time do you have Russ?
This is normally where I’d jump in to explain my Enneagram number and how I figured this out. I’d explain I didn’t take only one free test, oh no…I’m an over achiever. I took several free tests in addition to the full 100 question version (which yes, I paid for). Why? Because this over-analyzer wanted my 40 page document with dissections on Christen Chapman. I mean…this seemed like the most logical path towards what I thought was ‘self discovery.’
Before I could dive deep into my newfound self, Russ patiently helped me pause. He asked a little about how I had gotten to this place in just one week (no doubt recognizing my no-Enneagram-number self from last week’s call). I explained that I had spent my time doing my homework on self development and so many answers had come. Didn’t he want to know all about it??
And then he did something I did not expect. He casually spoke out loud some of the best advice I’ve gotten in my adult life. He said I should try not to over identify with anything outside of myself that tries to tell me who or what I am. No test can define who I am, or who you are. What we do today defines who we are. What we do tomorrow defines who we become…he went on to say more wise (yet simple) things that actually started to piss me off. Here I was out over $100 for this damn test…this test that garnered results that cut me so deep that it made me cry! Why was he so ready to throw all of that out the window? Why didn’t he want to better understand how the test exposed me to all of the worst parts of my personality? I really respected him so I knew I needed to take his advice and think on this…try to understand why a life coach wouldn’t want all of this ‘valuable’ information about me…hmmm…
Let me add that by this point, I had over 3 years of intense interest in self-development. I probably should have known better. The thing is this test was extremely detailed and insightful (to the point that I felt it read my mind in some parts), but 90% of the results were negative and told me what to focus on to avoid being my worst self. To top that off, it reminded me that I was very immature in my self-awareness and put me inside a box. The box had written in bold on it, ‘people pleaser’ and I was more than ready to step inside and lock myself in there for a long time while I tried to find a way to create some new, better identity that didn’t make me want to run for the hills.
Regardless of my feelings…which were definitely flowing…I went through some of my old notes and realized I had written on almost every single sheet of notes after every call with Russ to be careful what I focus on. “Where focus goes, energy flows.” Then it hit me. I was literally focusing every bit of energy, including my own unique gifts, into dissecting everything that was wrong with me. What did I think I was going to see more of after this? What did I think I was going to find next–something to celebrate or something to shame myself with? After all, the results made me want to hide my true identity more than it made me want to improve. What did I hope to get out of this painful and ineffective exercise? Honestly? I never even asked myself that going in. Lesson learned.
Even writing this now, it’s been months since that call and I never forgot his advice. He was so patiently insistent on it (I think I tried to bring it up again the next week lol). Only now looking back do I recognize that I have been doing this for YEARS. Pretending the ugly truth was real when I knew it didn’t align with my soul…beating myself up for years in hopes it would make me more happy, more peaceful, easier to be around, or whatever else might make me feel more loved. This, my friends, is madness. So I went digging again…
And just like that, I’m sent inwards again to find myself. Ugh…this is actual work, guys!
In looking for the truth, I found my fear for the truth. In looking for my purpose, I found my fear of success. In looking for my mistakes, I found my blessings. Somehow after all of my digging for excuses to let go or give up on my dreams, I found that no matter how scared I am, that is not who I am. I am not a quitter. Why did I think I was? I had spent years focusing on everything that I was not and everything I could not fail at. I spent my energy, time, resources and emotional strength doubting every good thing I had done and praying nobody would notice the bad. Again…madness! Madness to the point that I was more comfortable with some pre-coded test telling me who I am and what to do than I was sitting alone with Christen.
So what did I get out of this?
I’m aware. I’m ready for change. I’m still trying. I’m less afraid of failure and more afraid of never really trying. I wish I could tell you exactly where the journey began and when things really started to change but just like many things in life, it cannot easily be measured. What I can tell you is that it’s possible.
The first step to any change is usually acknowledging the need for change, even if you aren’t ready to change the scariest parts of yourself. You can take one step…one step you are comfortable with, and that change, could change your entire life. I know it changed mine. That step for me was asking for help.
Having a personal coach has changed my life. Not because he tells me who I am or what to do, but because he holds the mirror up in front of me and leads me to it. Seeing myself as I really am (not better, not worse) was step 1 to self-love. And let me tell you, self-love is a choice. Even if you have done terrible things or just a few things that aren’t perfect and drive you crazy, you are worthy of loving yourself. And if you believe that your capacity to love others is only as large as your capacity to love yourself, what other choice do you have?