I see a lot of I guess what would be classed as ‘toxic positivity’ in the coaching industry. Lots of promises of caterpillar to butterfly type transformation, claims to take you from good to great in a single power session (whatever the heck a power session even is), and soooo many ‘change your life in just two weeks’ coaching programmes (that incidentally cost a ruddy fortune and are usually run by unqualified, unsupervised coaches who will tell you that your hesitancy to hand over £3,333 of your hard earned cash to them is a reflection of your own sh*t relationship with money or a manifestation of your self-limiting beliefs and ‘playing small’ tendencies).
Bore off bad coach. We’re in a cost-of-living crisis and you can’t evidence your training or education. You are the coaches that give the industry a bad rep.
But I’m not here to rant about poor practice, if I was, we’d be here all week and I appreciate, we’re all busy, so let’s dive into why bad vibes are ok, and it can’t be breakthroughs, fireworks, brass bands, ah-ha moments and smashing glass ceilings all the time… despite what some coaches will try and sell you 😉
I have a friend who I run with regularly. She’s injured at the moment, and she can’t run. And it really sucks. She hates it. She’s been benched from doing something that she does every day, something that helps her physical and mental health, that takes her outside into the fresh air, to a place where she feels in flow, aligned, at peace, free, challenged but achieving. Running is her happy place. And right now, she can’t do it.
What does she need? Good vibes only? To be told to always look on the bright side? A text to say ‘well, at least you can still swim/do pilates’? A reminder that lots of other humans are trying to live in Burundi, South Sudan and the DRC?
When was the last time you cheered tf up because someone told to cheer up, or to look on the bright side, or told you to do a 10 min gratitude meditation on Headspace? Chances are, when you’ve got the hump, someone trying to sprinkle positive vibes all over you, might just make you feel worse.
Sometimes things are really ruddy rough. Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes we’re in the belly of the whale. A good coach will be able to hold you in that space, encourage you to explore it, and allow you the space and time to get comfortable with the discomfort of it.
“But Amy T… why tf would I want to stay in a place where I feel like poop?!”
This blog isn’t issuing free passes to wallow in self-pity city forever, it’s about exploring how it would feel to move from that place via a kinder route, rather than trying to beat yourself out of being down in the dumps because your inner critic is compounding the bad feelings you have, by telling you that you’re a stupid piece of sh*t for getting into this mess in the first place.
I’ve sat with clients who have just told me about some really difficult, God-awful stuff that they’re going through, only to watch them then immediately start gaslighting themselves… “But I know I’m lucky really”, and “I know I shouldn’t feel like this” and “I know some people go through much worse”. Simply put, b*llocking yourself for feeling bad, or telling yourself you’re not allowed to have a bad day, will mostly make you feel worse.
(can we pop a nice Canva graphic of a runner, preferably suffering, sweating or struggling in here please?)
A wonderful coach I know talked recently about his experience of mile 22. I’ll pop a link to the video at the end of this article, but I loved the way he illustrated how the volume of our inner critic gets dialled up, particularly when we’re going through something that feels hard. He recounted getting to mile 22 of the London Marathon, and quelle surprise… he felt absolutely awful. He was knackered. His legs hurt, his shoulders and back hurt, and he was really suffering. What he then noticed was that right on cue, his inner critic started its familiar narrative…
- “you’re an idiot”
- “you can’t do this”
- “you should never have signed up”
- “you’re not prepared”
- “you’re going to fail”
… and so on.
A couple of miles later, and whilst physically he still felt wrung out, he’d managed to challenge what his inner critic was saying and instead acknowledge that he was at mile 22 of a flipping marathon and as such… drum roll…
IT’S SUPPOSED TO SUCK …and that’s perfectly OK.
It sucked because running marathons sucks. Not because he, as a human being sucks.
- It hurts because it’s hard.
- I feel awful because it’s hard.
- I want to quit because it’s hard.
By accepting that at mile 22, bad vibes are an inevitable and rational part of what running a marathon feels like, he immediately felt more able to keep putting one foot in front of the other. This is how we achieve our goals and stretch ourselves and manage to do things that we never dreamed we’d be able to do. Feeling like it’s hard and you wanna quit is just as much a part of the process as the joy and elation of getting over the finish line.
- How comfortable are you when things feel hard?
- How often do you respond to others with a ‘good vibes only’ mentality?
- How often do you berate yourself or others for feeling down or having a low mood day?
- What can you do to interrupt yourself when you unintentionally gaslight yourself and/or others for having a bad day?
If we find low mood, sadness or suffering difficult to sit with, we can sometimes project our need to brave-face our way through life wearing a ‘gratitude is my attitude’ tee onto others, and whilst your intention may well be to help, the result may be that it makes them feel worse.
Access to a good coach can help to support people when they’re in the belly of the whale, because a good coach will create a space where you feel able to give yourself permission to have a bad day, a good coach will encourage curiosity so that you can better notice what you’re telling yourself when you have a bad day, and a good coach can then support you to question whether your response to your bad day is helpful or not. This in turn opens up so many options and other things to explore and observe about yourself, here are just a couple…
- How might I respond to my bad days differently?
- What am I telling myself that simply isn’t true? (think about my marathon running mate and his inner critic: “you can’t do this” … of course, he could. And he did. His inner critic was telling him porky pies)
So, maybe the bad vibes are just as valuable and have just as much to teach us as the good ones, so try not to shower people with toxic positivity, and if you’re having a bad day and everything feels like sh*t, what do you need?
Watch Roger chatting about mile 22 here: