When I was studying to be a life coach, the company I trained with was unique in that we would open our live training to the public for observation. My colleagues and I invited our friends and family to come see us as we were learning how to coach and be coached. It was incredibly vulnerable because we were in very intimate and confronting conversations. I remember the day vividly where I learned one of the single greatest lessons of my life.
I walked into the room excited and nervous all at the same time, we always knew there would be incredible growth after each training but it was growth that happened because we were opening up the most vulnerable parts of ourselves, exposing “who we really were.”
On this particular day, the observation seats were packed, my best friends had been among the observers which made it extra intimidating for me. We took our seats and our leadership team went straight for the firehouse. They Began with the question “when did you know the world was a scary place?” I think I nearly left my body in that moment because I knew what I had to share, and it was in front of a room full of people, strangers. I could have avoided the truth about when I knew the world was a scary place but I was committed to my work, my growth and to to being fully authentic, even if it meant exposing the single most vulnerable and traumatic experience I could possibly share.
It started with my colleagues sharing about their early childhood traumas, everything from a father displaying physical violence with a knife to a little girl saying goodbye to her dad as he set off for war, fearing he would be killed in the line of duty. We all sat as one by one; the fearful memory was shared, the tears would flow, the Kleenex was passed, and our leader team (with patient empathetic eyes) would acknowledge each story with an “I am sorry that happened to you, no little girl should have to experience that”. No hug, no coddling-just a calm and unemotional apology for the unfortunate experience. And then it was my turn. The moment my mouth opened, my body went into convulsive, uncontrollable crying-most definitely the ugly cry. I felt so alone and like I had the grossest, most awful story to share compared to everyone else. I shared the age, I was four. I shared the first event, “I knew the world was a scary place when that gross man came into my life…”
I told of the experience and never in my life had I felt so raw, so exposed. The worst part was the acknowledgement, the sad stare, the apology, the passing of the Kleenex… and then onto the next story. I wanted to run, hide, get a hug, I wanted anything but to sit in that chair in front of the strangers, the ten colleagues and the two best friends. But I stayed.
When the last person was complete, the leader team stood to complete the session. Denise, (our leadership coach) looked each of us deeply in the eye and shared “You guys, look around the room do you see every single one of you has experienced horrible things. Every single one of you.”
She went on to talk about how this is life, we are having a human experience and each one of us goes through unimaginable things. She talked about how we could chose to use those traumatic stories that we all had as a way to stay in our pain, fear, and victim hood or we can choose something different. She then invited us to consider that we had a choice, we could choose to use those traumatic experiences as a mechanism to go out in the world and make a difference, however that may be. She shared that we could choose to have all of our “bad” experiences as the catalyst for us to be the change makers of our world. She had us reflect on the impact that new way of being would have on the word if everybody began to shift their pain into their purpose.
I spent that entire week stewing in my anger. I was pissed, my friends were pissed, they were upset that they couldn’t come and give me a hug when I was clearly “in need.” I felt I had been hung out to dry in a room full of strangers, no compassion, just sad stares. I had a few people come up to me that day to thank me for sharing and reflect the impact it had on them.
About a week later it hit me so hard, our leadership team was standing for each of us that day. They were not going to allow any of us to identify as our sad crappy stories from our past. Had they gone in and coddled any of us, we would have missed the big lesson: we can choose to have our painful past the reason we are broken, powerless and fearful or we can use our past to transform us and be a mechanism for connection and purpose. I chose the latter.
I have learned to connect to my own power in such a way that I never knew was possible. I now get to help women everywhere step into who they were born to be, NO MATTER WHAT crappy story they may be telling themselves and no matter what has happened to them. It can be intense to stand for clients in this way but it is what creates powerful shifts so they connect to their purpose and power and have a kick ass life.