This is the third and last installment of a series of posts to better introduce myself, beyond my role as life coach. As I explained previously, this is a post with an interview-style structure.
What are your greatest strengths?
I’m very compassionate and am skilled at understanding other people and perspective-taking. I am also good with evaluating situations, decision making, and problem solving. My knowledge-base in psychology and ability to apply what I know in novel situations for a certain outcome (two very different things) is also a strength. I’m resourceful and creative. I also have a keen sense of style/design. I’d like to think my sense of humor is a strength too. I've taken the VIA Survey of Character Strengths, and according to that assessment, these are my top 5 strengths: 1.) creativity, ingenuity, and originality 2.) judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness 3.) honesty, authenticity, and genuineness 4.) fairness, equity, and justice 5.) leadership.
What are your greatest weaknesses?
My messiness has been a weakness, but I’ve improved with that! Although I can be extremely self-disciplined, my motivation is something that I have to work with at times to make sure I do certain things. Although these are personally areas I work on, I think they benefit me professionally in so far as giving me an edge with helping clients who have the same points of improvement. So much of life hinges on motivation!
Name 5 traits that you think describe yourself.
I pretty much did this above. I think my friends would describe me as intelligent, straightforward, funny, outgoing, and caring. Now I need to ask them!
If you weren’t a life coach or therapist, what would you be doing?
I would probably either be working in the fashion industry or rehabilitating wild animals in Africa, India, or Asia.
Learning Can Be Hard
"It is very common for people to be aware of what they should do or need to do, but struggle with doing it."
Ultimately, life coaching is about learning and developing. Whether you are developing yourself and your identity, learning new behaviors, developing new perspectives, or developing behaviors to reach a goal, engaging in growth requires you are aware and take the necessary steps to move forward.
It is very common for people to be aware of what they should do or need to do, but struggle with doing it. In this case, there is often a lack of knowledge about what specifically to do every day or in the moment to make a change in the given direction, a lack of skills necessary to make those specific changes, or a lack of motivation. A life coach can help with these hurdles. Even though a life coach can give a client tools and help with skill development and increasing motivation, growth relies on the client making the choices to take the steps to move forward. Noone will be successful with taking steps if he or she isn’t recognizing and accepting the challenges in the way and using strategies to overcome them. Learning requires much.
Even though I am a life coach, I am obviously a person. I am highly driven by my perceptions and feelings (feelings are really the motivators of behavior; logic functions as a motivator only as much as the thoughts or outcomes are associated with value. Feelings are what give value). I am fortunate to have many “tools in my toolbox” to help me with life. However, if I refuse to see my own patterns, know my own traps, or ignore the flashing lights in front of me that should be signaling me to do something different, none of my “action” tools are going to help me. In other words, denying reality is not going to help me—or you—to move forward. Denying reality will leave you running in circles, thinking you might be making progress. Denying reality can feel really good in the short-term, but you’ll stay stuck where you are. Chances are, if you are trying to move forward, there’s a reason you don’t want to be where you are.
Sometimes, the most difficult aspect of learning is accepting the hard truths, the ones that are painful, disappointing, or uncomfortable. For example, if you stay at the job where you are now (quite comfortably), there is no room to move up in the company and you will never be doing something you love (both which you value). Recognizing this and accepting it might bring a host of implications and uncomfortable feelings: uncertainty about what you would do if you stopped working in your current position; anxiety or apprehension about your employability, losing benefits, or a potential decrease in salary; disappointment because you really enjoy your current colleagues; and overwhelmed because it might mean relocating, which you really don’t want to do. In this scenario, in the short-term, it can be easier to ignore the fact that you don’t enjoy what you’re doing and there’s no potential for upward movement. In the long-term, denying those aspects are going to keep you stuck in a position that is ultimately not satisfying until something else happens to motivate you to change. Accepting reality and taking action—which can mean confronting uncomfortable feelings and disappointment—is the only thing that is going to move you closer to where you want to be. Depending, this can take much emotional strength and determination.
Taking the plunge into aspects of reality that are loaded with uncomfortable feelings is anything but desirable. Not to mention, once you take that plunge, you need to be able to adjust your perspective and problem solve so you have hope and a plan to change those aspects you don’t want to move forward with you. Much of this entire process requires emotional intelligence, coping, mindfulness, decision making, perspective taking, problem solving, and self-discipline. You need to balance being cognizant of the past (likely why you do not want to continue as you have been, which is motivating), living in the present (being conscious of and intentional with choices, coping with feelings, focusing on the positives, using your tools), and occasionally reminding yourself how you want your future to be (which should be motivating). Clearly, learning is not easy. But, it can be very worth it.
This is the continuation of a post from a couple of weeks ago in response to a request to know more of who I am, outside of a life coach. I decided to structure this task in an interview format, addressing what I would want to know about someone I'm just meeting.
What don’t you enjoy?
Eww. I don’t like cleaning up and putting things away. This is something I’ve made a conscious and concerted effort to improve within the past year, and I have been successful--but it is a work in progress. I’ve discovered and created techniques and tricks that facilitate being neater, and they really help! I dislike cardio workouts. I am not athletic, and tend to be sedentary. If something requires a lot of physical exertion with subpar payoff, I’m not a fan. I have a limited diet, which I really dislike with my love of food; there are a lot of things I can’t eat that I wish I could. Although emails are a necessity and can be convenient, I don’t enjoy tending to them.
What are three important lessons you’ve learned?
This is a biggie! 1.) If you commit, persevere, try, and put in the time, you can overcome weaknesses and things that are a problem and actually turn them into a skill and a strength. I’ve experienced this a couple of times: I was diagnosed with a non-verbal learning disorder in high school (terribly late because I was able to compensate for it until that point). I worked terribly hard at my writing, and was fortunate to have skilled mentors who helped me overcome my challenges with writing. When I took my GRE’s (the test you take after college to get into grad school), I had a 4.5 on the writing section, and 4.5-5 was the highest rating you could get.
2.) Self-love is so important. At some point, people will likely reject you, exclude you, hurt you, judge you, make fun of you, etc. Ultimately, you are the one person you have, from the beginning of your life to the end of your life. What other people say and do can and will affect you, but at the end of the day, other people don’t matter because you are the executive of your life and you are the person experiencing your life. If you don’t love yourself and only look outward for acceptance and love, you are giving who-knows-who a lot of power over your life experience. Know who you are, know who you want to be, and love yourself- flaws and all. The best life is going to be the one that you choose based on your values, not one that you create based on being pushed, pulled, and controlled by others. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love someone else; you will be too consumed looking for and needing that person’s love to be able to give freely and accept the love that they have for you. You have to know you’re worthy of being loved! 3.) You gotta dig in and face it. Avoiding whatever it is will not make it go away. Distracting yourself is not going to make it go away. It will only fester, maybe get worse, or have additional negative consequences. There is a time and place for avoidance and distraction, but it is not a long-term solution. Being able to tolerate and “work with” uncomfortable feelings at times is part of a healthy life. AND I’m adding a fourth: 4.) It is okay to say “No” and set limits!
What is your philosophy of life?
I’ve spent much time since I was very young thinking about the meaning of life. Although I still don’t know, I’ve logically concluded for now that a good life is one that you enjoy and one where you give back. That logical reasoning also vibes with me at an emotional level, and it’s what guides much of what I do.
There are still a few questions as part of my interview, which I will save for a later post. If there are any questions you'd like to add to my interview, please let me know, and I will include them!
Loss is an inevitable part of life. We experience loss in many ways, beyond the death of a loved one. For example, we can experience loss with our health, relationships that end, or with our career.
Impermanence is the nature of life. Our world is always changing; sometimes that means we permanently lose what has had a meaningful presence to us.
As is our nature, like almost every other mammal, we are built for attachments at the neurological level (oxytocin, vasopressin, etc). Although our primary attachments are likely to people, we can be attached to more than just people: ideas, activities, objects. Adjusting to a loss that has been a big part of our lives affects us at a core level. There is a piece of our world that is missing. Some of the thoughts that we habitually think are no longer relevant; what we normally expect every day will not happen; the behaviors we have routinely engaged in will not happen. All of these changes affect how we feel.
What can be even more startling, buried under the actual loss, is being faced with the reality that our worlds can change so quickly; what we depend and rely on can disappear. Although we might not be consciously aware of it, I think that “losing” in and of itself—separate from whatever the actual loss is—is unsettling and can threaten our safety and security. We have beliefs about who we are, how our world is, and what our future will be like. We function every day according to these beliefs. When a chunk of this falls out, especially when the loss is unexpected, it can really shake us. We have to get through the days, mourn the loss, and re-work our worlds.
When we re-work our worlds, it needs to be with awareness and intention. We need to reconstruct and put together a world that accommodates the loss, but also so the loss does not steal from our future. Every loss can be a learning and growing experience. Learning and growing from a loss does not take away the hurt and the pain. However, approaching the loss from a learning perspective helps us to recalibrate our world in a way that is healthier and better for us, as opposed to developing a world that is bitter, pessimistic, and cynical. Avoiding re-working our worlds isn’t helpful; this results in being stuck. We can also choose to look at the glass half full: we had something to lose. We will always have the memories. We got to experience *that* (whatever it was) in our life. It wasn’t forever, which would be divine, but we did have it—and it was good while it was. Appreciate it, savor the memories, feel the pain, and then focus on creating your new world.
We are behooved to engage life in a way that appreciates the present, expects impermanence, knows there will be pain, and knows it will lessen; we also need to know that we can adjust after a loss--our worlds are not over, but have shifted. Being mindful of these these things and practicing them can offer comfort and peace in a life that has changes and losses. Every loss provides a lesson, and an opportunity.
Me, as A Person, Not A Life Coach
Who Am I, Besides A Life Coach?
I once wrote an 80-page paper on my life, and that was ten years ago. I’ll spare you that novel! It seems me interviewing myself might be one way to tackle summarizing who I am as a person—even though anyone can’t really be summarized.
What is most important to you in life?
I value freedom and integrity/the truth. I’m very close with my parents and family; they are a big part of my life and have taught me so much! As I’ve gotten older, I’m starting to realize the value of being healthy. I rescued a kitten about a year ago, without the intention of keeping her, but ended up keeping her; she is my little love! She acts more like a dog sometimes: always greeting me when I come home, cuddling with me, engaging me in play, etc. She has quite the personality. I take her out places occasionally, and people are always surprised to see in a cat in a bag. (No one has ever described me as conventional.) I am lucky to have a handful of amazing friends who completely get me, are there for me, are great for being my own resource with perspective-taking, and are lots of fun! It’s important to me to give back and help make the world a better place. If everyone had that goal and followed through with it, I think the world would be very different. I think making choices that value the environment and other species are also important.
What do you enjoy?
Enjoyment! Yes! I love to enjoy things! This is a fun topic. Of course, I love laughing and good food. I like things that are new experiences and having adventures. I love travelling, even though I don’t have the opportunity to do it frequently. I like learning new things and meeting people. I love makeup! I’ve been working on improving my eyebrows (among makeup addicts, this is referred to as “brow game”), and have made progress during the past year. Again, this is what I enjoy, not what’s important! I also enjoy fashion, especially shoes. I love animals and playing with my cat, Sophia. I like to make things and be creative. I am such a psych nerd and am so into it. I could talk about psychology and have philosophical conversation for hours and not even know that much time passed. I really enjoy working with people and understanding how they “work.” One of the biggest highs is when someone has an insight that just sorta shifts their world, or being able to look back at where someone was a year ago and where they are now and how that person has grown. It’s a feeling that gets me at my core and is pretty awesome.
I have the rest of my self-interview, but I will save that for another post so this isn't too long. I hope this starts to show some of who I am!
Ashley Belsinger, M.S.