It’s a question that’s remained largely outside of my conscious awareness, lurking in the shadows of my shame, for years. What’s the question?
Am I enough?
Am I enough for my clients? Do I know enough? Am I smart enough? Do I have enough experience? Am I a good enough coach? Do I know what my client needs from me? Can I be that? Deliver that? Bring that?
These questions get triggered when I feel like I’m failing my client. When they are struggling and our sessions don’t seem to help. When I don’t know the questions to ask, the words to say, the feelings to express to help them feel better, move forward, see a new perspective, find their way.
Am I enough?
Recently, I had the gift of a powerful (personal / confidential) experience that helped me realize, really for the first time, “Yes, I am enough.”
I am enough. I know all I need to know. I am all I need to be. I can trust myself to be enough for my client. I can trust my client to be enough for themselves. And I can trust that everything needed for the client to heal is in the field between the client and their story and their data and me.
Does that mean that somehow I now believe that my clients won’t struggle or that I won’t have feelings of sadness, or worry or care when they struggle? No. I do and will feel all of those things.
And I know, deep in my bones, that they are enough for what faces them, and I am enough to be with them through it.
Since I’ve started believing that I am enough (it’s still early), I sense that my clients have started believing that they are enough. When I stopped feeling that I needed to be helping them more. That I needed to be adding more value, that I needed to be more sure, more certain, they’ve started feeling their own resourcefulness. Stepping into the knowing that they are enough.
This is what I know.
You are enough. Right now. Exactly as you are. And yes, I’m talking to you.
If you came to this work to help others, I’m talking to you. If the care you extend your clients is sometimes greater than the care you give yourself, I’m talking to you. If the primary reason that you relentlessly learn more, read more, educate yourself more is to help your clients more, I’m talking to you.
You are enough as you are. Right now. You have everything you need to change the lives of the people in your life, and in so doing, change your own.
You don’t need to know more. You don’t need to do more. You don’t need more education or more certifications or more experience. Whether you’ve been coaching for one month, one year, or ten years. You don’t need to change in any way.
You are enough right now to secure a connection with your client that is generative to their development. You are enough to be with your client in ways no one else in their life is. You are enough to create a trusted space that allows your client’s organic method of healing to reveal itself. And for you to facilitate that healing.
We are all enough. We are each enough. Just like the tiny acorn that will one day become a glorious, expansive tree, we all have inside of us more than we can comprehend. We need only accept that – trusting in our enoughness.
So does this mean that we stop developing ourselves? That we stop leaning in with our clients? That we are now baked, done? Of course not. Does it mean that we’ll work with every client forever? That coaching relationships don’t run their course? Don’t end? Or that we should be a good fit for every client? Of course not. Does it mean that our clients don’t or shouldn’t need us, if they are enough? That if they are enough, it means they don’t need anything? Uh uh.
Enoughness doesn’t mean all needs are met. It just means that we have the resources, the capacity, to meet the challenges that face us.
We are designed to do this life together. We are meant to help each other. While we are all and each enough, we still grow by coming together to connect and learn. And that’s the blessing of doing the work we do. And when we bring our full selves to the work, our clients can access even more of themselves. And we access more of ourselves when we know we are enough.
Being enough for our clients and ourselves means that in any given coaching session, we can rest in our enoughness.
We can know with all that we are, that we are OK and that our clients are OK. That we don’t need to work hard, to “add value,” to prove ourselves. We can trust that everything the client needs to generate their own path forward is existent in the field between us.
And when we rest in the trust that we are enough, the client is enough, and that the awareness needed to create a shift for the client will rise, it does. It can. It might be during the session, between sessions or years later.
That’s when the magic happens. Your client transforms from the acorn to the tree because they could see, feel, experience their enoughness. And that inner knowing of enoughness created the space for growth.
Thank you for reading my musings. I think in many ways, everything I write, I write for myself. And perhaps if that’s so, some of what’s in me, might be in you, too?
Join the conversation.
President | Learning in Action
Alison Whitmire is the President of Learning in Action, a company committed to her passion of making the non-conscious conscious and revealing what’s otherwise hidden to us. Alison holds certifications from two different accredited coach training programs and is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) through the International Coaching Federation (ICF). She earned an MBA from the University of Chicago, and has worked for three Fortune 500 corporations. She has also Chaired for Vistage International, runs CEO roundtables, coaches CEOs, holds a 200 RYT yoga teacher certificate and has been a TEDx organizer and TEDx speaker. She facilitates courses on team and individual EQ across the United States and Canada.
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My father passed away recently and we held the memorial service for him last weekend. While an unconscionable amount of drama preceded it, the service itself and our time together was precious and sweet and everything I could have hoped for. I was able to share my profound sadness with my family and friends and join with them in theirs.
The permanence, realness and finality of the loss of my father made so many unimportant things fall away. I had more meaningful, heartfelt, teary-eyed conversations with my family and friends than I have, maybe ever. The whole experience was such a gift.
Every emotion contains information for us that no other dimension of our experience possesses.
The information within sadness is that of loss. Our sadness tells us that we’ve experienced a loss of someone or something important to us (or someone close to us has). This description makes unpacking loss seem much simpler than it is. Loss is not easily untangled, teased out and identified. That is part of why experiencing loss can feel so overwhelming.
My dad was the single most important person in my life, for most of my life. When he passed, I lost more than just my father. I lost someone who believed in me, accepted me and loved me without condition. I lost the head of our family, the one who convened us, looked out for us and knitted us all together. I lost my advisor, mentor, and emotional sponsor. I lost the person who humbly embodied so many of the qualities to which I aspire. I lost my hero.
The gift of sadness, should we allow ourselves to accept it, is sensitivity, intimacy and connection. When we allow ourselves to experience sadness, we connect with our deepest self. We connect with our heart and who or what is dear to us. And when we share our sadness with others, we invite them to feel us and to feel with us.
And when we allow ourselves to feel our own sadness, we can be with and connect with others in theirs. Sadness is like an emotional bridge that joins us with others, connecting our hearts.
At my father’s service, anyone who wanted to, was invited to share whatever was in their hearts. I was drawn to tears by the tears of my family as they spoke about my dad and who he was to them. I felt connected with them in our shared sadness. And when I spoke, I was able to feel more of my own feelings by seeing them reflected in the eyes of my family and friends. Such is the gift of sadness when shared.
Sadness connects, self with self and self with others.
A good friend of mine lost his mother recently and shared that he still hadn’t cried. He explained, “I don’t like connecting with that pain.”
Sadness is painful. No doubt. And at times denying, avoiding or dismissing that pain can be what we need. To cope. To get through. To give ourselves a break.
But when denying our sadness becomes something more than temporary, it can extract a great cost. This was illustrated in an exchange I had at a training a few years ago.
My dad was sick at the time, and his doctor (not knowing the measure of the man he was dealing with), didn’t expect him to live, and called in hospice. (This was the first of several times over the following three years in which he was given weeks or days to live.) I left my father’s bedside to conduct a training.
At the training, I was getting to know one of the coaches attending. I shared with her that my dad was in hospice. She laughed. (That’s right. She laughed.) I looked at her, speechless and puzzled. Seeing my expression, she explained, “My father was in hospice a year ago, and he died. Six months later, my mother was in hospice, and she died. And now, my sister has cancer. You have to laugh.”
What I thought at the time was, “No, you have to laugh. I want to cry.”
I can’t imagine the overwhelming loss this coach must have been experiencing. Perhaps to access all of the sadness within that loss would have been incapacitating. Perhaps she was coping with all that loss as best she could by denying the sadness of it. And by denying her own sadness, she could not be with me in mine. And, though unintentional, she invalidated my sadness.
When we can not, or do not, allow ourselves to access our own sadness, we can not be with others in theirs. Hence, the risk of not accessing our own sadness is insensitivity, invalidation and disconnection. Insensitivity to the pain of others, invalidation of the sadness of others, resulting in disconnection from others.
Sadness is an emotional muscle that when exercised is more easily recruited. Once we’ve experienced loss and the accompanying sadness, it can be much easier to access. As we age, we tend to access sadness more easily because we’ve had more life experience, and experienced more loss.
Some people too easily access too much sadness. People who access high levels of sadness:
People who have high access to sadness (that falls short of depression) may benefit from reflecting on their sadness and what’s underneath it, using the bullets above as a guide.
When someone has experienced significant loss and doesn’t appear sad, it’s often said that they are “being really strong.” I get irked by that. People who experience loss and tearlessly power through it are coping. Let’s call it what it is. Coping. And that’s OK. Coping is good. Coping is necessary. Sometimes. But is it strength?
If someone experiences significant loss and is visibly in mourning, are they then weak? I don’t think so.
While non-feeling, as reflected in coping, has its place, it ultimately serves to disconnect us from ourselves and others. Only by connecting with our emotions can we connect with others in theirs.
Yes, the distressing emotions (anger, anxiety, fear, sadness, shame) are distressing. Sadness is painful. And feeling our feelings, while we are having them and expressing them in safe and appropriate ways, is a key aspect of being emotionally healthy and emotionally intelligent.
How do you come to understand your sadness? How do you unpack your loss? How has your own sadness connected you with someone else?
Join the conversation.
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