by Amy Alpert
A couple of weeks ago, I spilled coffee on my computer and had to migrate my data to a new computer. At the exact same time, my website encountered some problems and I had to figure out how to recreate certain pages. Needless to say, I was just a bit freaked out by all of my technological bad luck. My sweet and patient (at least at that moment) 13-year-old son attempted to talk me off a ledge as he watched my stress spiral to the next level.
The next morning, my son innocently asked me if I help my clients with stress. I laughed at his question, as I understood his underlying concern. How could I, as a life coach, help my clients with stress when I myself can get irrationally overwhelmed on occasion? If I could not be 100 percent in control of my emotions, how could I profess to help others?
After this conversation with my son, I realized that I have had several conversations like this in my life. Once when I visited the dermatologist, I had indicated on my patient information form that I was a yoga instructor. When I was nervous while the doctor removed three moles (that ended up being totally fine and I question his overzealousness in removing them), he asked without compassion, “You are a yoga instructor, shouldn’t you be able to calm your anxiety?” Ummm no, not necessarily … And then, more recently, a friend reminded me of the blog post I wrote about body image when I was having a momentary body image crisis. The assumption being that I should be cured of all body image issues since I had written about my struggles.
The fact is that I am a teacher and a student. I try to grow and learn every day, but I am far from perfect. I hope that I make that clear in my blog posts that whatever I write about I am trying to figure out, too. We are in this together. Life is complicated and demanding and I am very much human.
I think our desire, or even expectation, for people to be perfect is a way for us to calm our own anxiety. A therapist should not have problems, a doctor should have perfect health habits, a teacher should know everything about their area of study, a mother should be loving and patient with her children and a father should be confident and unafraid. These labels and expectations are created to instill confidence, but instead they demand a perfection that is detrimental to all of us.
As a coach, I am hoping to help people work towards their ideal self and create circumstances that are nutrient rich for their growth. Most of us are trying to learn, grow, and improve. No one has everything figured out and, if they pretend they do, then they probably have bigger issues. As Albert Einstein said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”
The most I can guarantee you is that I am on a quest to know myself and to serve others in their quest to know themselves. Life is full of mystery and wonder, and we are all just traveling through it together, hoping to find our way.
Amy Alpert, a graduate of the Certificate in Positive Psychology, is a solutions-focused coach with a practice based in positive psychology. A former human resources executive at Goldman Sachs, she holds a master’s degree in organizational psychology from Columbia University. This article was originally published on Amy’s blog at amyalpert.com.