This is a follow-up to the very personal article where I outed myself for having chronic anxiety (still active but reduced), depression (now past thankfully) and ADD (unsurprisingly still very active!).
I thought I would write this follow-up article because one very brave soul left a comment saying among other things, “If someone struggles with severe depression and anxiety, they should not be coaching.” The comment was kindly put-together and I believe that many people feel the same way, so here is my follow-up post, I hope you read it with an open mind.
And before we start I want to share a quote that I hope you find helpful as you read on:
“Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.” Sir Francis Bacon
To begin, I hope there are three things that most people will agree on:
- There are SOME coaches who have severe anxiety or depression who should not be coaching others.
- There are SOME coaches who just aren’t very good – irrespective of whether they have anxiety or depression.
- If a coach or therapist has HAD anxiety or depression and has ‘overcome’ it – then the past anxiety and/or depression is either:
a) Completely irrelevant or
b) A bonus! Especially if they have clients with sticky limiting beliefs and mental health issues – because they have first-hand experience.
So, lets explore. The coaches who currently have anxiety or depression – fall into 2 broad categories:
- The coach who HAS anxiety and/or depression, is AWARE and is working on it.
- The coach who HAS anxiety and/or depression, is UNAWARE (or is choosing to be UNAWARE) and is therefore NOT working on it.
Type 1) The coach who has anxiety or depression AND is aware of it AND is working on themselves to feel better.
So why shouldn’t they be coaching? Coaching involves many things including following intuition and asking questions, helping clients to create supportive structures and habits in their lives, it’s about accountability, believing in the client’s wholeness and beauty as a person and helping the client to both see – and accept that. Coaching is about helping clients achieve goals, create positive new empowering beliefs and to identify the gremlin/limiting beliefs within. It’s about helping our clients become the best they can be through a process – called the coaching relationship.
Still thinking that depression and anxiety get in the way of a coach helping a client? Well, go here for some testimonials from people I helped WHILE I WAS DEALING with depression and anxiety.
I’m sharing these testimonials to make a point. If you are AWARE of your issues you can work around, or WITH them. In addition, because I was willing to share (when it seemed appropriate), many of my clients found it INCREDIBLY helpful to know they were not alone in dealing with negative thoughts, inner critics, anxiety, depression, fear and doubt.
AND here’s another benefit of a coach with anxiety or depression! Coaches WITH anxiety and depression are quicker to spot these issues and encourage people to seek alternative or additional help (as I did with both coaching enquiries and clients), whereas a coach who has never had anxiety or depression will not recognize these signs in the same way – and sometimes not at all.
OK, so now for Type 2) The coach who has depression or anxiety – is unaware or is choosing to be unaware – and is not working on themselves.
This I believe to be of concern. In no particular order:
- When a coach has depression or anxiety and is not working on it, there is an inauthenticity – a lack of “walking the talk”. It could be fear preventing someone seeking help or they could simply be oblivious to their problems. A coach in this situation is not necessarily a bad coach. It’s not going to stop a coach from helping a client achieve their goals, but it sure makes them a less effective coach.
- A coach who has depression or anxiety and is not working on it – well, there is a strong risk they may not recognize signs of depression or anxiety in their client (they’re too busy avoiding looking at themselves). This could be dangerous if the client needs a deeper help than the coach is able to give.
But even here I believe there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer. As I mentioned at the beginning, there are some coaches (just like policemen/women, doctors, electricians, plumbers, artists or any other profession) who just aren’t very good at their jobs. And I am sure there are coaches out there who have untreated anxiety and/or depression who can still coach better than a coach who just isn’t very good.
Isn’t it Hypocritical to Coach Someone if you Have Anxiety or Depression?
Well, there are all sorts of supposed contradictions in the world:
- Doctors who smoke
- Policemen and women who break the law
- Personal Trainers who are supposedly ‘overweight’
- Dentists who eat sugar (or who don’t floss their teeth after every meal)
- Coaches who are depressed, anxious or both!
I believe it’s only hypocritical to coach someone else when you’re depressed or anxious, are aware of it AND deny and are unwilling to do anything about it.
If we ruled out everyone from helping others who had issues themselves, we wouldn’t have very many (any?) doctors, dentists, therapists, coaches out there to help!
And whether it’s a doctor, dentist, personal trainer or therapist/life coach, each of us chooses who we want to help us. There is not only the ability of someone to consider, but rapport – and timing. These must ALL be in alignment. I tried 5 therapists before I found the right fit for me.
On Perfection and ‘Black and White-ness’:
When we expect people to be ‘perfect’ and free of fault we not only set them up for failure but we set ourselves up too. Because no-one is perfect. The standards we judge others by – are also usually the standards we hold ourselves to. The more rigid our standards are, the more limited our lives will be.
Mental health issues like anxiety and depression take time to heal. We are reprogramming our minds after 20, 30, 40, 50 years of thinking a certain way. Some beliefs can be changed in a snap. And others take a lot of time, hard work and courage.
We live in a society that likes to make things black or white – and yet we humans are shades of grey. There are no absolutes. But there is a fear in our society of what we don’t understand and we can’t control. Our mental health (feelings, thoughts etc) is incredibly complex and individual – and impossible to fully understand and control. What a shame we’re not fascinated by this – instead of being afraid and determined to control it!
AND sometimes the best helper is not someone who has solved the same problems as us – but is just a few steps ahead of us. They’re far enough ahead to be able to see issues and offer valuable insight, but they’re still close enough that they know what it’s like to be where you are!
Some coaches who are severely depressed and/or anxious should probably not be coaching – but it depends on the individual; many coaches continue to do an amazing job and make a difference while working on their own issues.
Coaches who have recovered from depression/anxiety will most likely be better coaches than they were before, as they have been forced to face their demons and have come out the other side. Like a doctor who has beaten cancer, a personal trainer who has lost 150 lbs – the success means they have been there, done that. And coaches have a distinct advantage here, in that we won’t be telling people HOW to do it, but using our experience and coachlike questions to help clients over their hurdles in the way that works best for them.
And as in all other professions, some coaches just aren’t very good – regardless of whether they have depression, anxiety or some other mental health issue.
So, just because we’re not operating at a “super-happy level” doesn’t mean we can’t help our clients through the knowledge we have, the coaching process we share and the relationship we have with them. In fact I think we’re better coaches if we have some unhappiness, disorganization, worry in our lives. THIS enables us to empathize. THIS is what makes us HUMAN.
“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” Tagore
I’d love to know what you think! Please share this article with people who might be interested and/or comment below.
If you liked this article, you may also like:
Like this post? Click LIKE or Share below!