What’s your knee-jerk reaction when you hear that I’m a “Life Coach”?
Do you have any perceptions of what I do specifically?
What skeptical thoughts do you have about me and my profession?
Can you think of any judgments or stereotypes about Life Coaches in general?
Or do you think there should be more life coaches in the world?
In my 18 years of experience working in mental health, Life Coach has been the profession that I’ve found to be the most creative way to help someone. It’s a job that’s allowed me to travel the world, work with a diverse group of clients, and help struggling people reconnect with their passion and purpose. However, being a Life Coach has also been one of the most controversial career titles that I could ever imagine.
I have been in some weird and uncomfortable situations that have made me question my sanity (and test the integrity of my sobriety). At times I’ve been highly criticized and publicly blasted by people that judged me before taking the time to understand my work. I can to realize through these experiences that there are a lot of myths and misrepresentations about what it means to be a Life Coach. So today, I’d like to open up about my personal and professional experiences and break down the three biggest reasons why people discredit life coaches like myself.
They Assume The Title of “Life Coach” Implies That I Know How to Navigate Life Better Than Anyone Else.
If you ever find someone that claims they have all the answers in life – RUN! I believe that life is an incredibly complex collection of events that no one person can entirely “master.” Let me be the first to tell you…
I don’t have all the answers.
Will never have all the answers.
There will always be aspects of my life that I need to improve.
At times I also struggle and face unique challenges in my life. (Just like we all do)
I’ve realized that many critics of my work start with the assumption that I, a Life Coach, must think I am some magical being that knows all and pushes my clients towards the decisions I feel are best. This approach couldn’t be further from the truth! The truth is, a good Life Coach is an unbiased, solution-oriented, and honest individual who can call out your blind spots and help you create a realistic plan to accomplish your goals. Being a Life Coach does not mean that I have everything all figured out (although that would probably make my job a whole lot easier if I did). It means that I am committed to helping my clients make authentic decisions that help them be their “Best Selves.” I believe in this strategy so much that the first book I wrote is titled “Best Self: Be You, Only Better.”
We help people make changes through two simple concepts: action and accountability. I believe any significant change in life starts by making a conscious effort and committing to it. Life Coaches are also not necessarily facilitating therapy, but we will often give a series of supportive “pushes” at critical moments to help spark growth and change. This is why I often tell my clients that I am more of a strategic motivator or thought partner than a spiritual guide or psychological analyst (as a therapist may be better suited for).
Interestingly enough, I’ve found that seeing my clients in a more familiar setting (for example, a coffee shop instead of a clinical office) has allowed me to bypass much of the stigma surrounding Mental Health. I suppose this is because showing up on my clients’ turf shows them that I’m fully embracing their world. It also means that I’m sometimes going to lengths that other professionals in mental wellness may not be able to go. Whether my client is starting a new business venture, trying to clean up their life and get sober, or searching for something to reignite their flame in the middle of a world tour, I show up alongside them every single morning and help them reach their goals!
This level of involvement is a huge responsibility that a Life Coach should never take for granted. However, some coaches may not have the skills and experience to handle this power appropriately. This leads me to the second reason why people attempt to discredit Life Coaches…
Life Coaches Are Not Required to Hold any Specific Licenses or Certifications.
Like many other folks in the mental healthcare/mental wellness space, there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing someone posing as a “professional” without any qualifications or merit behind their work. Unlike social workers and therapists, who are required to obtain a master’s degree, complete countless hours of supervision, and get licensed by the state, there are no official prerequisites to call yourself a “Life Coach.”
I believe this has led to many unqualified people claiming the title and hurting the profession’s legitimacy along the way. You don’t have to look far on Instagram to find several “Life Coaches” showing off all their apparent wealth and material possessions for clout. These are the folks that NEED you to know they are successful (specifically, more successful than you). They are constantly creating 15-second clips of them speaking aggressively with every single word captioned in bold font in an attempt to steal your attention and seem more profound than they really are (or, at least, more profound than you). They’ll often even say rude things to people to appear confident and knock others down a notch. The name of their game is making themselves seem better than you. That way, you’re more likely to see them as credible figures.
I’d say that it starts with three simple steps.
1. Look at their professional experience.
2. Ask them about the specific details of their potential work with you.
3. Evaluate if this coach can be an enriching resource to you specifically. A qualified Life Coach should have no issue addressing all of these elements in detail. They should use their skills and experience to make it easy for you to evaluate their effectiveness and measure your growth.
To start, you should know that I don’t have a Master’s degree, I’ve struggled with learning disabilities my whole life, I have a bit of a lisp when I speak too fast, I was on drugs before I even graduated high school, and I became addicted to substances to the point that I lost my opportunity to play college basketball. If you stopped here, I don’t think I would be the person who you imagined in your head when you heard the word “success”! However, my qualifications as a Life Coach become apparent when you look at my actual experience.
I’ve been sober for 19 years, worked in mental healthcare for over 18, I spent many years as a certified drug and alcohol counselor and board registered interventionist, I founded one of the leading treatment centers in Los Angeles (CAST Centers), I’ve worked with dozens of A-list celebrities and athletes, and I am a 2x NY Times Best Selling author.
Suppose you simply judged a book (or, in this case, a Life Coach) by its cover. In that case, you’d likely either immediately discredit me for my surface-level shortcomings or get swayed by the flashy social media stars that call themselves Life Coaches. This is just the start of why I highly encourage you to take a long, thoughtful look at a Life Coach before making any judgments.
People Don’t See All the Hard Work That Goes Into Life Coaching. They Only See What Gets Shared on Social Media.
I’ve got to admit, I understand this critique and surprisingly agree with where this sentiment is coming from. Social media can be an inauthentic highlight reel that distorts our perceptions of what someone’s life is really like. It’s far too easy for literally anyone to create an “Instagram illusion” by buying followers and only posting the positive parts of life. We instinctively want to represent ourselves well, and we also instinctively want to categorize others to understand things quickly and move on. This shorthand thinking is why most people won’t look much deeper than the clickbait headlines that dominate today’s media. And sadly, I’ve seen that it only takes one negative headline to have a whole army of hateful comments (fueled by the courage of internet anonymity) coming right at you.
The reality is that none of these critics know what goes on behind the scenes; the good thing is that they do not need to know. Here’s something that I think we all can benefit from remembering: convincing people to change their beliefs about you is like trying to swim upstream. It can be a waste of energy that won’t get you anywhere. The people who discredit you typically don’t ever want to see you differently from how they initially chose to perceive you.
Sometimes the headlines are more entertaining than the truth. And you know what? That’s okay! I don’t have to spend one single second convincing them otherwise!
I’d like to share an important secret with you that has helped me navigate negative comments and “haters” in life. No matter what our profession is or what we choose to share, I’ve found that we all run into “haters” in our lives. The secret is that the people leaving negative comments and putting you down were and never will be a part of your life in a positive way. These people won’t have your back, support your dreams, or offer any real support. There is no use for them in your life, so I personally find blocking these people online as a form of “spiritual whack-a-mole” that’s just part of moving forward.
My goal is to always leave my clients in a better place than when I arrived. That seems to have worked very well for me because I still wake up feeling motivated and grateful to do what I do after all these years. I could have never imagined how magnificent and extraordinary it would be to work as a Life Coach!
Experience has shown me the importance of accepting that we ALL will be discredited by others at some point in our lives. Knowing this, we need to remember that we are worthy, and we are enough. When we focus on our craft, when we commit ourselves to our work, and when we invest our time and energy into our passions, we end up getting all the credit and validation we could ever need. True credit comes from within, and we have the power to award it to ourselves.