Should Coaches and Therapists have their own lives sorted before they can help you?

I ask this because the other day I was telling someone about how I love to work with people who suffer from anxiety and try to ‘fix’ it with unhelpful habits, like comfort eating, smoking, binge drinking, procrastination etc.

They surprised me by saying ‘What right do you have to help others when you’re still sorting your own life out?’

And they’re right.  I am sorting my own life out, constantly.  And I’ll probably be sorting one thing or another until the day I die. I don’t expect ever to be perfect or ‘finished’.

I’m human, I screw up (often) and the various challenges, tragedies and setbacks I’ve experienced have left their mark – some more deeply than others.  I had terrible anxiety for a while and still get it from time to time, I had a bout of severe depression and had to work hard to overcome it and I’m not always on top of my stress.  But when I realise that something is holding me back I get help.  I’ve no qualms about having some therapy when I need it and it would be very fake of me not to, wouldn’t it?  I could hardly say to people how important it is to get help when you’re struggling and then hide my own struggles.

But that doesn’t make me less of a person or less of a Coach or Therapist.  In fact, I think it makes me more resilient and much more effective.  I’ve been through some shit but I am still standing so I must know something! I believe everything I’ve been through and overcome has given me strength, insight, empathy, a depth and a wisdom that I can use to help others, accepting that everyone’s journey is unique to them.

I know how frightening, disruptive, sad, frustrating and confusing life can be sometimes but I also know that there’s always a way out, an answer, a choice.  It may not be the one you would ideally choose if things were better, different, ‘normal’, but it’s there, if you know where and how to look for it.  Life doesn’t have to break us, it doesn’t have to wear us down or suck the joy out of us. We can get back up repair, learn from setbacks and put our best foot forward into the future and see challenges as a gift to learn even more resilience and build our resources.

Have you heard of the Japanese art of Kinsugi the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with gold, silver, or platinum, thus making the broken piece of art worth more than it was before.

I love this story.  It goes that around the 15thcentury a Shogun broke his favourite tea cup and sent it to China to be repaired. At the time the type of repairs involved ugly and impractical metal staples.  He decided to ask a Japanese craftsman to repair it.  Instead of trying to hide the breaks the craftsman repaired the cup by filling the cracks with gold rendering the piece more beautiful than it had been before.   The analogy is that we are all ‘broken but whole’, and if we can take our broken bits and repair them with gold we too are more valuable, more whole than before.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Ermest hemingway

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places”.

So yes, I do get and need help sometimes and I have many cracks, but I like to think I’m repairing them with gold and becoming more valuable as time goes on.

What do you think? Do you expect your Therapist to have all the answers and have life completely ‘sorted’ in order to help you?

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